If you choose to visit China, it is more likely than not that you will need to obtain a visa to enter the country. China has a strict visa policy and a long list of visas that are available. This list shows all the types of visas that China offers, and what are the circumstances that would warrant each. The majority of those visiting China will probably need L (tourist), X (student), or M (business) visa.
C – Crew Visa – This visa is for those who are crew members for international transportation such as airplanes, ships, or trains and accompanying family members.
D – Permanent Resident Visa – Those who want to move to China Permanently. Often known as the Chinese green card, they can be incredibly difficult to acquire.
F – Visit Visa – Those who want to visit China for reasons outside of tourism purposes. Cultural exchanges, study tours, lectures, and research would all be situations where you would apply for this visa instead of the L Tourism Visa.
G – Transit Visa – For those who are travelling or transiting through China. Since the cost and application for the transit visa are quite similar to that of the L Tourist Visa many choose to use application for the Tourist visa instead. There are also many cities in China that allow you to travel through the cities without a transit visa.
J – Journalist Visa -J1 – Longterm – For foreign journalists who are posted in China for at least one year. J2 – Short term – Foreign journalists who are on temporary business for things such as interviews. These are issued for a stay of up to 30 days.
L – Tourist Visa – For those who wish to visit China temporarily for tourism purposes. There are single, double, and multiple entry visas offered. The duration of stay ranges from 30 to 90 days. Citizens of the United States and Canada may be eligible for multiple entry L-visas that are valid up to 10 years. If you receive a 10-year visa, it will still be valid even if your passport expires. If you wish to visit China after your passport expires, you need to travel with both passports. There will be no issues unless your personal details have changed.
M – Business Visa – For those who are visiting China for business or trade purposes. This is mostly used for those who visit China often for work but spend less than six months our of a year in the country. They are also not employed by a business that is organized in China. The M Business visa is similar to L Tourist visa in that citizen of the United States and Canada can apply for 10-year multiple entry visas.
Q – Family/Personal Visit – Issued to those who are visiting family members of Chinese citizens in China, foreigners who are spouses of Chinese citizens, and those who intend to visit China for personal purposes such as foster care. Q1 visas are issued for those who intend to stay in China for more than 180 days. This is a single entry visa and you must apply for residency within 30 days of entry. Q2 visas are issued to those who intend to visit China temporarily. These visas have the same 10-year multiple entry validity that the L, M, and S visas.
R – Talent Visa – Also known as Highly Qualified Persons visa. This visa is for those who have talents that are “urgently needed” in China. This would refer to Tier A talents under China’s tiered work permit classification system that was put into place in 2017.
S – Relatives of Foreigners – This visa is issued to foreigners that are living in China for purposes such as work or study. It is the equivalent of the Q Visa for family of foreigners living in China long-term. S1 – Longterm Private Visit Visa – Issued for more than 180 days. This is a single entry visa and holders must apply for a residence permit within 30 days of entry. S2 – Short term Private Visit Visa – Issued for a stay of 180 days or less, the S2 visa can be multiple entry and valid for up to 10 years for citizens of the United States and Canada (similar to the L and M visas), with any one stay not exceeding 180 days in length.
X – Study Visa – The X visas are issued to those who visit China for study or fieldwork purposes. Those who hold an X visa do not have working rights, they may be able to acquire permission to take on internships if it is authorized by the educational institution and the other proper authorities. X1 Visas are for those who intend to stay in China for study or fieldwork purposes for more than 180 days. X2 visas are valid for less than 180 days.
Z – Work Visa – These visas are for those who work for a company that is incorporated in China. Z visas are issued prior to entry into the country upon the submission of the supporting documentation by the employer and related governmental departments. After the Z visa holder arrives in China, they must obtain residence and work permits.