If you’re planning a trip to the Middle Kingdom and have been left wondering “Do I need a visa to visit China?” we have all the answers to your visa-related questions. China is known for having one of the strictest visa policies for foreign visitors. However, over the past few years, this has loosened slightly with the addition of visa-free transit allowances. Discover everything you need to know about visas for China in this handy guide. In addition, don’t forget to check out our carefully selected range of luxury Hotels in China and China Tours.
Who Needs a Visa to Visit China?
Unless you come from one of the few visa-exempt countries (which are currently listed as; Singapore, Brunei, Japan, Qatar, and Armenia) you will need a tourist visa, known as the L Visa, to visit China. The L Visa allows visitors to stay in China for 30 days. It is also possible for citizens from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canadian, and Argentine to apply for a 10-year China tourist visa that allows for multiple entries.
There are some exceptions to this rule, including direct transit passengers staying less than 24-hours and passport holders from 53 countries who can enjoy 72-hour or 144-hour visa-free transit at certain points of entry. Visitors traveling directly to special areas, like Hainan, can also enjoy visa-free travel.
If you are visiting as part of an organized tour group, you might not receive an individual visa. In this case, the tour group is assigned a group visa covering everybody on the tour. Your tour agency will take care of this for you. It is worth remembering that if you are visiting Tibet, whether as an independent traveler or as part of a tour, you will require a Tibet Travel Permit as well.
Visa-Free Transit in China
As mentioned above, China makes allowances for free-free transit for visitors from more than 50 countries. These include; France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States. Passport holders from these countries are granted a visa-free stay up to 72 hours while transiting via popular airports, including Beijing Capital Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Chengdu, Xi’an, Guilin, and many more. Passengers from the same 53 countries can also visit Guangdong, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Xi’an, Chongqing, Liaoning, Chengdu, Wuhan, Qingdao, Kunming, and Xiamen on a visa-free stay of up to 144 hours.
How Do You Get a Visa for China?
If you’re visiting China on holiday, you will most likely need to apply for a Chinese Tourist L Visa. However, if you’re visiting as part of a tour, simply give your details to your travel agency or tour operator and they will handle the application for you. If you are traveling independently, you’ll be responsible for ensuring your own Chinese tourist visa. The process can seem daunting at first, but applying for a China visa doesn’t need to be difficult if you follow our simple guide.
What Documents Do I Need for a China Visa Application?
Before you start your China Tourist Visa application, make sure you have all of the requirements and documents you’ll need. These include;
- a passport with a minimum of six months left before expiry and an available blank page
- a photocopy of your passport data page
- a recent passport photo – please note that there are very specific requirements for the photos which, if not met, can cause a visa application to be rejected. More details are available here
- proof of hotel, tour, and flight bookings OR
- an invitation letter
- China Tourist Visa Application Form (which can be downloaded from the official Chinese Visa Application Service website)
How to Apply for a China L Visa
Once you’ve collected all of your documents and completed the China Tourist Visa Application Form, you can then submit your application. This can be done at a Chinese Visa Application Center (CVASC) or at a Chinese embassy or consulate. CVASC usually allows applications online and by post. Postal applications are not accepted at embassies and consulates. But if you cannot go yourself, you can nominate someone, including a visa or travel agency, to act on your behalf.
How Much Does a Visa for China Cost?
Unless you come from one of the Visa Fee Abolition Agreement countries (which are currently; Pakistan, the Maldives, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, and Micronesia) you’ll have to pay for your China Visa. The price depends on which country you come from and how many entries you are applying for. For example, a single entry China Tourist Visa for a United States citizen will cost $140 while a multiple entry visa for an Australian passport holder will cost approximately $230.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Chinese Tourist Visa?
Under normal circumstances, it usually takes around four working days for a China tourist visa to be processed. It’s also possible to pay extra for an express service or if you’re very short on time, a rush service. This provides a same-day application and visa for an extra $30.
Do I Need a Chinese Visa for Hong Kong?
It’s worth remembering that the visa process for Hong Kong is entirely separate from that of mainland China. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) and therefore has its own requirements and regulations for visas. As described above, the Chinese L Visa does not allow travel to Hong Kong, and in return, a Hong Kong visa does not mean you can visit China. However, travel to Hong Kong is visa-free for visitors from 160 countries, which means most people will not require a visa for stays between 7-180 days.
Visiting China: What’s Next?
Now you’ve got your answer to the question “Do I need a visa to visit China?” it’s time to think about planning your trip. A good place to start is with our Guide to Chinese Culture and Insider Travel Food Guide. You can also check out our range of tours, which range from 7 Day Express Tour Packages to 14 Day Private Tours.