Last updated on Feb 27, 2012
Most foreigners must have a visa to come to China. They should get visas from Chinese embassies or consulates-general in their home countries before they come to China.
Citizens of countries which have mutual visa exemption agreements with China don't need a visa.
Under some circumstances, foreigners can get a port visa for a maximum of three months in cases of urgent need and lack of time.
Foreigners may apply for a port visa for one of the following reasons:
Being invited at short notice by the Chinese side to attend a trade fair in China;
Being invited to China to enter a bid or to formally sign an economic or trade contract;
Coming to China under contract for supervision over export shipment, import commodity inspection or checking the completion of a contract;
Being invited to install equipment or make rush repairs;
Coming to China at the request of the Chinese side for settling claims;
Being invited to China for scientific or technological consulting services;
A last-minute replacement or addition, approved by the Chinese side, to a delegation or group that has been invited and has already obtained visas for traveling to China;
Visiting a patient in a critical condition or making funeral arrangements;
Being a person in immediate transit who, because of force majeure, is unable to leave China by original aircraft within 24 hours or has to leave China by other means of transport;
Being an invitee who does not have time to apply for a visa to a Chinese agency abroad but holds letters or telegrams from designated competent authorities approving the application for a visa at port visa agencies.
Foreign journalists, officials, public affairs passport holders and diplomatic passport holders cannot apply for port visas.
Ordinary visas shall be marked with different Chinese phonetic letters and issued to different foreigners according to their stated purposes of visit to China:
Visa D for foreigners who are to reside permanently in China;
Visa Z for foreigners who come to China to take up posts or employment and for their accompanying family members;
Visa X for foreigners who come to China for study, advanced studies or job-training for a period of six months or more;
Visa F for foreigners who are invited to China on a visit or on a study, lecture or business tour, for scientific-technological or cultural exchanges, for short-term refresher course or for job-training, for a period not more than six months;
Visa L for foreigners who come to China for sightseeing, visiting relatives or other private purposes (a group visa may be issued to a group of nine or more foreigners on a sightseeing trip to China);
Visa G for foreigners passing through China;
Visa C for train attendants, air crew members and seamen operating international services, and their accompanying family members.
Visa J-1 for resident foreign correspondents in China; Visa J-2 for foreign correspondents who make short reporting trips to China.
Foreigners holding visas D, Z, X, or J-1 shall, within 30 days of entry into China, obtain foreigners’ residence cards or foreigners’ temporary residence cards from the city or county public security bureau at the place of their residence.
Foreigners’ residence cards are issued to those who stay in China for one year or more. Foreigners’ temporary residence cards are issued to those who stay less than one year in China.
Foreigners holding visas F, L, G, C or J-2 don’t need to obtain residence certificates as long as they stay in China for the period prescribed in their visas.