Types of Chinese Visas
A Chinese visa can take the form of a Diplomatic, Courtesy, Service, or Ordinary Visa. Ordinary visas are the most common type and there are eight sub-categories, of which most people will be concerned with obtaining a Tourist, Business, Student or Work visa. The different types of Ordinary visas are explained below.
Tourist (L) Visa
This is for people whose main purpose of traveling to China is for sightseeing or for visiting friends or relatives. A standard tourist visa is valid for 90 days from the date of issue (meaning you should enter China within 90 days of receiving your visa) and entitles you to stay in the country for 30 days from your date of entry.
You can request a longer period of stay (either 60 or 90 days) but it is up to the consulate whether they grant it. You can also request a double or multiple-entry tourist visa, in case you need to leave the mainland (to Hong Kong, for example) and then return.
It is also possible to extend a tourist visa up to two times (for a period of 30 days each time) once you have entered China. However, while first extensions are generally granted, it is possible the second extension will be rejected.
Business (F) Visa
F Visas are issued to those whose purpose of visiting China is to attend seminars, conferences or business meetings, to conduct research, or for scientific, technological or cultural exchange.
Applicants may apply for single, double or multiple-entry F visas valid for up to 12 months. 24 month visas are also possible if the applicant has held a previous F visa. Each stay in China is generally limited to a period of 30 days (meaning you can’t stay in China for longer than 30 days continuously) but an application can be made for a longer duration of stay (60 days is usually the limit). The visa is valid from the date it is issued.
Student (X) Visa
X Visas are issued to those who intend to study or do an internship in China for a period of more than 6 months. Those who plan to study for less than 6 months should still follow the procedure for applying for an X Visa, but they will instead be issued with an F Visa.
Work (Z) Visa
Z visas are issued to those who will be taking up employment in China.
Transit (G) Visa
Transit Visas have a validity of 7-10 days. There is no real reason to apply for this type of visa as it is just as easy to obtain a tourist visa and a transit visa is not required for catching connecting flights in China. See also “Airport Transit in China” below.
Crew (C) Visa
C Visas are for members of train, airline and ship crews who will land in China. C Visas are not required for crew members of some nationalities.
Journalist (J) Visa
For foreign journalists. J Visas are split into two types. J1 visas are for foreign correspondents who will be resident in China, while J2 Visas are for journalists who will only be in China on a short-term or temporary assignment.
Resident (D) Visa
Issued to those who intend to reside in China permanently.
Airport Transit in China
Note that passengers from many countries who are catching connecting international flights in China do not require a visa as long as they have valid onward tickets, don’t leave the airport and stay at the airport for less than 24 hours.
Also, passengers from certain countries who are transiting through Pudong Airport or Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai are entitled to stay in Shanghai for up to 48 hours without a visa so long as they have valid passports, confirmed onward tickets and visas for the destination country (if applicable). This applies to nationals of Japan, South Korea, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.