A strong economy makes living in China as an expat a favorite for individuals looking for a healthy, stable income. Plus, the unique culture makes it an exciting place to visit and tour.
But, unlike some countries, you can’t just pack a bag and fly to China. Whether you’re planning to visit, work, or study, you’ll need a visa to live in or travel to China.
What type of visa do you need? What are the requirements? How do you go about getting one?
Today we’re talking about the basics of how to get a visa for China.
Determine Which Type of Chinese Visa You Need
The purpose of your trip will determine what type of visa you need. There are a variety of visas issued by the Chinese government, including tourist, business, work, and student visas. Some other popular types include the family, private, group, and crew visas.
You can find a complete list of all Chinese travel visas at the Chinese embassy website.
When deciding which one to apply for, think about the main reason for your trip and decide how long you plan to stay there. Different types of travel documents are valid for different lengths of time.
How to Apply for a Chinese Business Visa
If you’re planning a business trip, you’ll need a business visa for China, also referred to as the F Visa. This document is for travelers who plan to meet with a client or a customer in China or attend an industry event, such as a trade show.
You will need to have a recent photo of yourself as well as a valid passport with at least 6 months until its expiration date. Like all visas, you will need to fill out an application. You will also need an invitation letter from the business, company, or organization you intend to work with or meet with while you’re there.
The invitation letter must be detailed, and it must contain some very specific information. Your invitation letter must include the relationship between you and the Chinese company. It must list your arrival and departure dates and outline the main purpose for your visit. It must also provide information about both the traveler and the company or individual inviting you into the country.
Chinese Work Visa
The Chinese work visa is also known as the Z Visa, and it’s for people who intend to work and get paid in China. It is not for people conducting business and getting paid by their own employer in their homeland.
To apply you’ll need a few specific things from your employer. Make sure you obtain a visa notification letter as well as an employment permit so you can work legally in the country.
The Z Visa is only valid for 30 days, so when you arrive in China you’ll also need to apply for a temporary residence permit.
How to Get a Chinese Student Visa
If you plan to study at a Chinese school or university, there are two types of student visas.
The X1 is for long-term study, allowing you to stay in the country for more than 180 days. With this document, you must also apply for a temporary residency permit.
The X2, on the other hand, is for short-term studies, such as if you plan to spend one or two semesters abroad. With the X2 document, you can stay for a maximum of 180 days.
Along with your passport and application, you must provide a copy of an Admission Notice from the university or school where you plan to study.
Chinese Tourist Visa
The tourist visa, or L Visa, is for anyone who wants to visit China for touring and sightseeing. If you’re considering moving to China, taking a trip there as a tourist is a great way to help you decide if you want to live there for an extended period of time.
There are several different types of tourist visas. You can obtain one for single entry, double entry, or multiple entries that you can use for a maximum of 10 years. In most cases, the valid duration of a single stay in China is 30 days. Some visas allow you to stay for up to 60 days.
To apply for a tourist visa you’ll need a passport with at least 6 months remaining before its expiration. You’ll also need to fill out the application form and provide proof of round trip tickets as well as hotel bookings for the duration of your stay.
To apply, you must visit a Chinese embassy, consulate, or Chinese Visa Application Center in person. If you cannot get there yourself, you can have a travel agent or a visa agency apply for you. You cannot send your documents through the mail.
How to Immigrate to China
If you decide you want to become a Chinese citizen, you’ll need the government to approve you as a permanent resident first. In order to apply for permanent residency, you must meet at least one of the residency requirements.
For example, you can meet the requirements if you are married to a Chinese citizen or someone who has 5 years of permanent residency in the country. You can also become a permanent resident if you make investments in certain sectors of the local economy. And if you are over the age of 60 and have relatives in China, establishing permanent residency should be relatively easy.
Related: The Cost of Living in China
Once you have established permanent residency you can begin the process of applying for citizenship.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
The reason for your trip and how long you intend to stay will be the most important determining factors in figuring out which type of visa you need. Make sure you apply for the right one – especially if you intend to study, work, or conduct business while you’re there.
Regardless of which travel document you need, do not wait until the last minute to apply. While it usually only takes several days for Chines visa applications to be processed, it’s best to apply 1 – 2 months before you plan to depart on your trip.
If you want to get a head start on the process, you can apply as early as 90 days prior to your departure date.