Thursday, January 1, 2015

How to... use this website

This website features comprehensive How-to instructions for different visa types and how to get supporting documents. A list of all guides can be found in the left-hand column. For questions which are not answered in any of the posts, please use the "Ask a question" page.

If you don't know what visa you should apply for in the first place, here's a very short guide:
You come to China as a tourist for up to three months? You should apply for a tourist or L visa, even if during your stay you visit a trade fair or meet a client. Have a look at "How to get a tourist visa" if you're staying at a hotel, and an additional peak into "How to... get a private invitation letter for a tourist (L) visa" if you're staying at a friend's or family member's house. L visa are usually issued for 30 days and may be extended in China if you can prove you have sufficient funds to stay.

You come to China on a business trip - that is, a temporary project with a China-based company that invites you? If this company has the right to invite foreigners, they might want to have a look at "How to... get an invitation letter for a business (F) visa" and you at "How to... get a business (F) visa". Depending on your position, the company size and some other factors business visas are issued for a period between 30 days and 12 months. Recently, F visas have been extremely hard to get so you might want to have an alternative option prepared!
You come to China to work, be it for an internship, a long term position, a Chinese or a foreign company? The Z visa which will grant you the right to a residence permit is your friend. Getting it is a tough and long procedure, but absolutely worth the hassle. The residence permit gives you a completely legal status in China, allows you to buy a house, pass the driving license and many more benefits. Have a look at "How to... get a Z visa" to get familiar with the procedure which requires a lot of help from your employer, you undergoing a health check and, at times, a dedicated agency. Residence permits have a standard duration of ne year and can be extended pretty easily.
You come to China to study with an official university or school? They will provide you with all the documents you need to apply for a study (X) visa. Like the Z visa, it is subsequently changed into a residence permit (still time to get that Chinese driving license!).

In all of the above situations, once arrived in China, you will have to register with your local police station within 24 hours of your arrival. Don't take this responsibility lightly!

You cannot find your situation in any of the above descriptions?

  • You work here, but your company is too small or can for other reasons not apply for a work permit / Z visa for you?
  • Your internship is so short you reckon applying for a year-long Z visa is not worth the hassle?
  • You're self-employed, but cannot set up your own company?
  • You study, but your school cannot provide the official university documents for you to apply for an X visa?

Right now, these are some of the grey areas where your situation may require a longer stay in China, but you cannot get the visa which was intended for your situation.

In the past, agents were able to provide invitation letters for long term F visa, issued by no name companies, for small amounts of money. Nowadays, getting one of these precious letters is rather difficult, and even if they're issued, they are often only good for a 30 days F visa. To extend their stay in China to a maximum amount of time, many people resort to kits made of multiple extensions of visas issued in Hong Kong. The current situation is that short term F and L visas are still being issued in the Special Administrative Region, but while 30 day L visa are pretty straightforward to get (see here for details), 60 or even 90 days (be it L or F) uninterrupted stay in China are quite hard to achieve.

(Jan 9th, 2009) Attention: Please note that the conversion from L/X/Z to F visas is currently NOT POSSIBLE in Beijing through any agency! We still have to find out if this measure is temporary or permanent.

can help you with this process, but be aware that policies change quickly and call them before you go! It is also possible to apply for L visas in other countries surrounding China - recent positive experiences have been reported from Seoul, Delhi and Bangkok.

Currently, tourist visas can be extended twice in Beijing, up to a total duration of stay of 90 days. Check here for details!