Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to... get a private invitation letter for a tourist (L) visa

Tourists who wish to stay with friends or relatives in China (as opposed to those staying at a hotel) are sometimes required to hand in additional information about their hosts.

This includes
  • copy of the hosts' police registration
  • copy of the hosts' passport
  • copy of the hosts' visa page
  • copy of the hosts' employment license
  • work and private address in English and Chinese
  • personal invitation letter (click here to download a template)
Chinese embassies in some countries will only allow tourists to stay at private accomodation if they are directly related to the applicant and may, in rare cases, require a proof of kinship.

For tourists staying with friends in China, please note you need to register with the local police station within 24 hours upon your arrival.


Myron said...

Thanks for this great information. I've also checked the info you posted about this at your facts and fiction and How to... get a tourist (L) visa posts, and I'm a little confused about what I can do in my situation.

I've just completed my teaching contract. My current Z visa expires July 15th. I have tickets for the Olympics and a flight back to the USA scheduled for August 13th. I'm going to be in Hong Kong July 6th-12th, so I'm planning to try to get a 30-day L visa then. However, I don't have a hotel booking since my school is willing to let me use my on-campus apartment until I leave China. I was planning to get the private invitation letter from a school staff person who is a friend and is helping me out with this. Should I just make the letter out to say I'm staying with him? You've also hinted that proof of kinship may be required (which I don't have) or that they may not be allowing this at all for tourists from some countries (which is stated in the "Other rumors out there" section of the facts and fiction post.)

Another option I have is that I've got friends in Beijing I'll be staying with for about 3 days--would it work better to get this letter from them?

I've also get friends who are working at some hotels and hostels in Beijing, and I think they could pull some strings to let me make a booking and then cancel it later--should I just get a booking document from one of their hotels?

Thanks for any help you can provide!

Coeurdelion said...


thanks for your comment.

You'll be good in any case. Let me explain why:

First, I would advise you to use an agency when extenduing your visa in Hong Kong. The commissioner's office in Wanchai is overcrowded and applies extremely strict rules when issuing visas, while agents hand in the applications in bunch and have way better guanxi than you could ever have. Most of the agencies are happy to provide you with hotel and flight bookings and will only ask you to bring passport and photos.

If you want to provide all necessary documents yourself, you can sure use a personal invitation letter from a friend here, and will, as US citizen, most probably not be asked to provide proof of kinship. You can also book a hotel yuorself and then cancel the booking - or let your friends do it. Really, either way is fine!

Good luck!

Myron said...

I just got my visa today, so here's a follow up for anyone who reads this. I used the invitation letter from my friends in Beijing to get my visa without any problems. Also, I didn't have copies of all the documents mentioned in this letter (specifically, my hosts' passport and visa), but the police registration, employment license and address were all essential.

Thanks again for all the help, coeurdelion.

Rent Shanghai said...


What's Employment license supposed to be for someone employed by a company?
Is this a work permit book or something?

And does it apply for shanghai visitors as well?


Coeurdelion said...

By employment license, I mean the little brown book.
Same rules apply for Shanghai visitors, but make sure to check with your embassy if a personal invitation letter is sufficient because some of them will only accept hotel bookings!

Michael said...

Hi everybody,

just wanted to give an update on inviting non-relatives into China.

I invited my girlfriend to stay with me in Shanghai last week. Therefore we had to provide an invitation letter in English, lease contract of my apartment (Chinese & English), ID of landlord, my Visa and passport copy and my police registration.

It worked out fine and everything was done within 5 days.

Thanks for the help and good luck for everone else!


Mos and Nikou said...

Hi there,

This is a great blog of yours, Your site is very informative and I can relate to your posts. My husband and I are also EXPATs in China. I have just started my own blog: TheShanghaiExpat. Please feel free to visit and let me know what you think for a link exchange.


Sonia said...

Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

Visa to Australia