Getting a China Visa

China’s visa rules, which were tightened during 2008’s Olympic Games, have started to ease again which is a big relief.

2019 Update: Never mind, it’s hard again!

When entering mainland China you’ll need a pre-arranged visa (unless you’re from Japan, Brunei, or Singapore) which you can arrange at a Chinese embassy or consulate anywhere in the world. The most commonly issued visa is an L (Tourist) Visa which is valid for a duration scaling from 30 days to one year for visitors. Prices are always fluctuating but expect to pay between $60-$130 depending on current rates and your nationality. Other types of visas include:

  • F (Short term work) Visa – Designated for business trips, interships, or short study. You’re formally required an invitation letter however you can bypass this stipulation by getting the visa in Hong Kong or Macau from one of many travel agencies.
  • Z (Long term work) Visa – Multiple-entry, long duration visas which are for people employed full-time in China. Requires a lot of paperwork and a hospital visit for a physical examination.
  • X (Student) Visa – Six month, one-year, or longer duration depending on the length of your study commitment.
  • L (Tourist) Visa – 30 to 90 day durations, generally for multiple entry, from anywhere from one year to ten years, depending on your nationality and the type of visa which you request. The length of your tourist visa will depend on your specific circumstances, and luck is often a factor.
An (L) Tourist Visa with 90 day validity and single entry

Some travelers might consider double or multiple-entry visas which allow you to leave and return to mainland China on the same visa. Say you’re flying into Beijing, traveling south to Hong Kong – which counts as leaving – and then crossing back to the mainland to travel south toward Vietnam. If you don’t have a route that includes leaving China a single entry visa will be slightly cheaper.

With the visa rules and regulations changing as often as they do, you’re best off contacting a Chinese consulate directly to make sure you’re getting totally accurate information. To give you an idea of the fluctuations, a year ago tourist visas weren’t being issued and now they’ve resumed operation including up to one-year duration.

For more information check the Chinese Embassy website which includes visa applications for download.