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December 31, 2014

How do I get a visa to go to China? How do I know what kind of visa to get?

4 Answers


In order to get a Chinese visa, you need to visit the Chinese embassy or a consulate before you arrive in China. They are not issued upon arrival. If you don’t live near a consulate, you can pay an agent to go to the consulate and apply for you. It typically takes 2-6 days for processing. You then have to pick up the visa from the place where you applied.

It’s honestly kind of a hassle. Make sure you have your visa application filled out electronically, not by hand, your flight itinerary, two visa photos, your passport, and a STAMPED letter of invitation from a Chinese host organization. Specific details can be found at the site below.


Typical circumstances require a visa before arriving in mainland (don’t need visa for HK, Macau and Taiwan if you are American citizen). Usually this is obtained via Chinese consulates in SF, LA, Chicago, Houston, DC and also at any place where there is a Chinese Consulate worldwide (including Hong Kong).  But for the small majority of you who might want to do otherwise, here are other less well known ways to get into mainland China visa-free while staying on the legal side of things.

If you want to just be in and out for a quick trip, there is the 72 hour visa policy which applies to air travel at international airports.  For example, you fly from Seattle, layover in Beijing and your end destination is ..India or a different third country.  Now with this policy, you can get out of the airplane’s stale air for 3 days and breathe in the fresh air in Beijing all visa free.  I don’t think this works with SEA-PEK-HKG, because HK is part of China.  Also, it doesn’t work if you do SEA-PEK-SFO because you are coming and going back to America…you’re missing that third party country.  Also, thats a long trip for only 3 days…

If you ‘forgot’ your visa, or are in a pinch there is also a 5 day  “visa on arrival” 落地签 via walking across the Hong Kong border (I remember when I looked a few months ago) in Shenzhen at Futian border where you can exit HK, go upstairs and pay like 1000 RMB and get a 5 day visa.  Not 100% sure, but they might exclude Americans from this policy.  Technically you are supposed to only stay in Shenzhen because its a Special Economic Zone but maybe you can do a SEZ tour of Zhuhai, Swatow and Xiamen too haha . Just remember to leave on day 5.

Also, I’m pretty sure if you join a tour group from Hong Kong going to Guangdong province, they can spare you a visa in lieu of you shopping and touring with the group (should be about a week long tour) at designated heritage sites like 丹霞地貌,开平碉楼,一个指定的华人之乡.



Alexandquan provides poor advice which could land people up into perhaps serious trouble plus costing a lot more money and potentially severely negatively affecting one’s life.


The visa that one should apply for depends on the purpose of the applicant’s stay in China. A list of visas and basic instructions can be found at the consulate or embassy’s website.


For US Citizens, applying from the US, applicants need to apply through the consulate or embassy according to the jurisdiction of where he or she legally resides in the US. Applications and other requirements have been known to be slightly different between consulates and embassies. If you are applying from outside your home country you will need an explanation behind it.


While the government has now implemented ten year visas, it is important to note that it is up to ten years providing that you can prove yourself and that this is for tourist and business visas only. Many more of the visas today are now becoming thirty or sixty day visas.


The user also does not address the consequences if caught for working or conducting business illegally. It does depend on the officer – possible warnings, fines, detention (prison), and deportation. Also, the incident can be entered in the international system shared by all embassies making it difficult or impossible to apply for visas for other places.


You can always go downward but you cannot move upwards, so someone working in China is allowed to travel; however, someone traveling is prohibited from working. It is also important to note for those working or intending to work, work permits of any type and the related visa must be issued and related to the jurisdiction of the company and residing (e.g. shanghai documents cannot be for Beijing domiciled people).


Additionally, it is up to the officer at the consulate or embassy as to your visa terms if you are apply for a tourist or business visa. While it could be 30, 60, or 90 day entries, most of the visas are now 30 day visits.


The officer will take many factors of your application into account. The applicant would questioned if anything looks suspicious, for example, if someone had a ten year tourist visa and stayed in China except for the required exits every thirty days.


For specific questions please feel free to get in touch.


I’m just providing advice that most people might not get from a normal response to this question.  I’m not covering every aspect of visas for going to China, rather its a more nuanced look at the situation.  If anyone’s life is negatively affected because of my advice, I apologize, please listen to jmintzis instead. However, I hope those who have relevant experience can share their opinions on all the questions in the Q and A.  You don’t have to be an expert to share, just share your relevant information and I’m sure it will be helpful to some people.