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Chinese Visas: Frequently Asked Questions

Mutianyu Great Wall of China

In this section of our site, you will find questions that we are frequently asked about Chinese visas and some general answers to them.

We try to ensure that information contained in this section is accurate and up to date, however if you don't find what you are looking for here or have specific questions, please either check our forum for answers, post you own question to the forum or contact us, and we will be happy to help.

If you are completing your application with us then we will tell you all you need to know, but feel free to take a look the FAQs below if you require peace of mind!

Is China visa-free?

Under Chinese law, foreign nationals of 51 countries travelling by air to a third country via Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guanghzou, Guilin, Kunming, Shanghai, Shenyang and Xi’an are entitled to enter the People’s Republic of China without having to obtain their visas in advance, and are allowed to remain on the territory of these cities for up to 72 hours of their arrival.

The 144-hour visa-free transit program has been in operation in Jiangsu, Hangzhou and Shanghai since 30th January 2016.

List of countries that qualify for Chinese visa-free entry:

Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, USA.

72-hour visa-free requirements

This policy only applies to foreign nationals travelling by plane who meet all the following requirements:

  • Hold a valid passport for one of the visa-free countries listed above.
  • Have a valid visa for the onward/ next country.
  • Have booked an onward flight to the next country with a confirmed seat showing that they will leave China within 72 hours of arriving.
  • When transiting to the next country they are passing through a specified Chinese international airport

Please note: The 72-hour visa-free policy does not apply to passengers travelling by train, ship or other transport!

Other important information to consider:

The 72 hours will be counted from the time when the transit permit is granted, not from the time when the flight landed at the airport and unless staying in a hotel, tourists must register their transit permit at a police station within 24 hours.

Travellers must notify their airline companies/carrier about their travel plans before they arrive. The airline companies/carrier then report the visitors to the Chinese Frontier Inspection Organisation to ensure that they can go through the immigration formalities successfully. All passengers must carry their valid passports and certificates during their stay in China.

During the 72-hour period, travellers are not allowed to leave the city where they got their visa-free transit stay permit. Consequently, they must depart from the same airport as they arrived (for example, if they arrived in Beijing they cannot leave from Shanghai even if Shanghai has the same policy).

144-hour visa-fee requirements

This policy only applies to foreign nationals who meet all the following requirements:

  • Hold a valid passport for one of the visa-free countries listed above.
  • Have a valid visa for the onward/ next country.
  • Have booked an onward ticket to the next country with a confirmed seat showing that they will leave China within 144 hours of arriving.
  • When transiting to the next country they are passing through a specified Chinese international port, including Nanjing Lukou Airport of Jiangsu, Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport of Zhejiang and all air, sea and railway ports of Shanghai, including Pudong Airport, Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, Wusong Passenger Transport Center and all railway stations in Shanghai.
  • Passengers are required to enter and leave from the eligible transit ports listed above only.

Other important information to consider:

The 144-hour free stay period does not start until 00:00 of the day following the passenger’s arrival.

Travellers must notify their airline companies/carrier about their travel plans before they arrive. The airline companies/carrier then report the visitors to the Chinese Frontier Inspection Organisation to ensure that they can go through the immigration formalities successfully.

During the 144-hour period, foreign visitors can travel within the administrative regions of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, but cannot leave for other cities and all passengers must carry their valid passports and certificates during their stay in China.

Exceptional circumstances and visa-free facilities in China

Under Chinese law, tourists who need to leave Beijing/ Chengdu/ Chongqing/ Dalian/ Guanghzou/ Guilin/ Kunming/ Shanghai/ Shenyang/ Xi’an for another Chinese city must apply for visas at the local Public Security Bureau.

Visitors who do not exit China after 72 hours from their arrival due to unavoidable reasons, such as treatment of sudden disease or flight cancellation, must apply for visas at the local Public security bureau. Otherwise, they cannot apply for an extension of stay in China.

Currently Beijing, Chengdu, Guanghzou and Shanghai airports have already optimized the transit formalities with Customs, Entry-Exit Inspection, Quarantine Bureau and Frontier Inspection Stations. The airport terminals have installed free-visa stay tourist exclusive service areas for offering foreign currency exchange, mobile phone or car rental, luggage deposit and other services for free-visa stay travellers.

How do I understand my Chinese visa?

We realise that it can be difficult to understand your visa and so we have put together a page on our website which should help you make sense of the different criteria. Please see our How to read a Chinese visa page to find out more.

Do I need to give my fingerprints for a Chinese visa?

All applicants between the ages of 14 and 70 must now give their fingerprints when applying for a Chinese visa in the UK.

Please go to our designated page on Chinese biometric fingerprinting to see how the process works and where you need to go to give your fingerprints.

How much does a Chinese visa cost?

The price of your Chinese visa will vary depending on your nationality, the type of visa you want and how quickly you need your application processed.

To find out how much your visa will cost, please follow the steps on our main Chinese visa application page.

How long does it take to get a Chinese visa?

This will depend on the type of visa you need as well as the processing and delivery options chosen. A standard Chinese business or tourist visa service for UK nationals will take 10 business days to process at the Consulate in addition to the days necessary for us to process your application, collate the information to send to the Consulate and delivery. We also offer an express service which will cut down the processing time for Chinese business and tourist visas to 9 business days.

Is a Chinese visa hard to get?

The Chinese visa application process is fairly standard for most visitors, however there may be a few additional difficulties that arise such as the need to provide additional documentation with your application if you are un/self-employed or have a profession that is deemed 'sensitive (see 'will my profession affect my application?'. Nationals of certain countries may also be required to complete fingerprint identification.

Am I entitled to apply for my Chinese visa in the UK?

All British passport holders are eligible, provided you are able to attend an appointment at the Visa Application Centre in London for biometric fingerprinting. Other foreign nationals are eligible to apply in the UK provided they hold a valid long-term UK visa or residence permit (the start date should be 6 months ago or more).

New information regarding proof of residency for EU and non-EU passport holders in the UK

The Chinese Consulate is now asking non-UK passport holders for a proof of their residency in the UK depending on whether they are EU or non-EU passport holders. For more information on what you need to provide for proof of residency, please view our 'What documents do I need to provide with my application pack?' section on our tourist or business visa pages.

Which Chinese visa should I apply for?

The type of Chinese visa you will apply for will depend on the reason for your visit:

Tourist - If you are looking to visit China for tourism purposes then you will need to apply for a tourist visa. There are several types of tourist visas available including auto-tourist which you will need if you are planning to travel around China in your own vehicle.

Business - If you are travelling to China for business purposes including negotiations, conferences and meetings then you will require a Chinese business visa.

Crossing the country to somewhere else - If you are travelling through China to another country then you will require a Chinese transit visa.

For more information about these types of visa, please see our Chinese visa application page.

How can I check on the progress of my visa or support application?

To check on the progress of your application with us, please click here and then enter in your application reference number. If you have lost this, then please contact us.

Can I make changes to my Chinese visa application?

This will depend on how far your visa application has progressed. If we have not yet processed the application or lodged this with the Consulate then it should be possible to make changes, although this may incur an alteration fee in some cases depending on what details need to be changed. If you have provided us with the wrong details or forgotten about something, please contact us immediately and we will see what we can do.

How long is a Chinese business visa valid for?

Business visas are generally used by people who travel to China on official or private business and may be single entry, double entry or multi-entry and allow for trips of up to 90 days during each entry.

For UK passport holders a business visa is valid for 2 years and allows multiple visits for a 90-day-stay each entry. Please be aware, that you cannot apply for this visa more than 90 days before the first entry.

For other nationals the visa can be issued for single, double or multiple visits with a validity “window” that starts from the date the application is made to the Consulate and you should enter China before this validity “window” expires. For single entry visas the validity “window” is 90 days, for double entry visas it is either 90 or 180 days and for multiple entry it may either be 6 or 12 months. One can stay in China up to 30 days during each entry.

Please note: If you visit Hong Kong from China, and then intend to return to mainland China, that you will need a double entry visa.

Will my profession affect my Chinese visa application?

Currently this may affect visa applicants employed in the following areas:

  • Active duty military personnel
  • Charity worker
  • Government official
  • Media (for example: publishing and photography, TV or radio, writer, journalist, etc.)
  • Member of national parliament
  • Religious worker

Along with documents listed on our main visa page, we advise that you include the following with your visa application pack:

  • A letter from your employer, confirming that you are travelling purely as a tourist, not for business reasons, and do not intend to work.
  • A self-declaration to confirm the purpose of your visit and that you won’t be involved in any political, military, media or religious activities while in China (depending on what activity is related to your profession).

The Chinese Consulate may request you to provide any additional documents that they deem necessary. 

Please note that other than this, your profession may affect the validity of your visa as well as how long it will take to obtain it.

If you are unsure and would like more clarity, or specific information tailored to your personal circumstances, we recommend that you contact our visa team who are happy to help.

Can you get a Chinese visa on arrival in Beijing airport?

In rare circumstances it may be possible for travellers to apply for a visa online and obtain this from Beijing airport. Please be aware that this is only an option in emergency or urgent situations only and this is not guaranteed, even in these circumstances we recommend applying for a visa in the usual way if this can be avoided. You may be able to obtain a visa at Beijing airport in the following cases:

  • For visiting a patient in critical condition.
  • Being invited by the Chinese government for economic, scientific, trade or technological concerns.

Can a Chinese visa be transferred to a new passport?

If you have an active Chinese visa in an expired or cancelled passport and wish to transfer this to a new passport then you will have to visit the Chinese Visa Application Centre directly along with the passport you wish to transfer from and the passport you wish to transfer your visa over to. Unfortunately, it cannot be done without your presence.

When should I apply for my Chinese visa?

This will depend on when you are looking to travel. You should not apply for a Chinese visa more than 90 days in advance, as your first entry "window" will expire before you come to China.

It is advisable to apply at least one week before your trip to China, to be able to process the visa on standard service (4 working days) which is the most cost-effective.

Are there any requirements for the passport photo for Chinese visas?

All visas require a passport photo that meets criteria specified by the Chinese Government. You should make sure that your photo meets the following criteria:

  1. The photo is recent and taken within the last 6 months.
  2. The photo meets the standard size for passport photographs (between 354 - 430 pixels wide and 472 - 560 pixels tall).
  3. The photo is taken on a plain white background on digital photo paper.
  4. The photo must clearly show your face and must be free from scarfs, hats and accessories (unless for religious reasons).

What documents should I provide with my Chinese visa application pack?

The documents you need for us to submit your application to the consulate depend on your nationality and the type of Chinese visa you need. In some cases you may be required to apply directly at the consulate in person. Passport holders of the UK require the following:

  1. A completed and signed visa application form.
  2. Your passport (with a minimum of two blank pages and valid for at least 6 months after the end of the requested visa).
  3. A single recent colour passport photograph - Important: the Chinese Embassy will not accept photos with accessories such as earrings (even the smallest one), scarfs, facial piercings etc. Please click here for official consulate requirements.
  4. A photocopy of your last Chinese visa (if you have one) - If it was issued in a passport other than the one you intend to use for this application, you should provide the original along with a photocopy of its personal data page and the previously issued Chinese visa. If your name on the current passport differs from the one you held previously, you must provide an official document confirming the change of your name.
  5. Confirmation of inbound and outbound flights or train bookings (either a copy of the tickets or reservations).
  6. Confirmation of accommodation in China - this can be in the form of one of the following:
    a) A hotel or hostel booking confirmation covering the whole period of your stay in China and showing the full names of all travellers. It must match your entry and exit dates as per your travel tickets.
    b) A personal invitation from a friend in China (they should be a Chinese citizen, a resident from Hong Kong or a foreign citizen holding legal residence in China). The invitation should include your information (name, age, passport number, relationship to the inviter etc) and the information of the inviter (name, contact number, address). The inviter will also need to include a copy of their passport.
  7. For applicants under 18, an original extended birth certificate and both parent's passport information.
  8. If applying for work, study or residence, you will need the appropriate visa or permit.
  9. Payment (if not paying online).
  10. Additional documentation - At any time during the visa application process, the Chinese Consulate reserve the right to request extra documents before they make a decision about your visa. So it is always good to have any additional documents to hand such as any tickets or details of any trips or tours you are going on within China.

What do I do if my visa is lost or stolen?

If your visa is lost or stolen, you will need to apply for a replacement visa.

Firstly, you will need to contact a local police department and request an official statement confirming that your visa was lost. We recommend stating that your documents were lost, not stolen as this can make processing a replacement visa easier.

Once you have completed these steps, you will then need to get a new passport from the British Embassy in China.

Why was my Chinese visa denied?

Chinese visas can be denied for several reasons including:

  • Incorrect information provided in your visa application.
  • Missing documents.
  • Past criminal convictions.
  • The passport photos you submitted do not meet the requirements.
  • The applicant is from a country that has been blacklisted by the Chinese government for political reasons or terrorist activity.
  • The applicant works in a 'sensitive' profession deemed high-risk to the Chinese government, such as the military or media.
  • Blacklisted by the Chinese government in the past.

If you complete your Chinese visa application with us, we will often asked questions around many of the reasons listed here in order to reduce your chance of refusal. We will compile all documents you need and evaluate your photo to ensure that all your documents meet the criteria outlined by the Chinese Government.

What are the official public holidays in China?

China official public holidays include:

  • 1st January — New Year's Day.
  • 4th - 10th February — Chinese New Year Holiday.
  • 8th March — International Women's Day.
  • 5th April — Ching Ming Festival.
  • 1st - 3rd May — Labour Day Holiday.
  • 7th June — Dragon Boat Festival (Tuen Ng Festival).
  • 13th September — Mid Autumn Festival (Moon Festival).
  • 1st - 7th October — National Day Holidays.
  • 7th October — Chung Yeung Festival.

Please note: Most, if not all official offices, including the consulates in the UK will be closed on these days — and often, processing times are slower before and just after.

If my Chinese visa application is refused, or I change my mind, will I be able to get a refund?

We start processing your visa application immediately upon receipt of your order, therefore we are only able to refund the consulate tariff and postage cost if you cancel your order before we submit your visa application to the Chinese Consulate.

If you have already submitted your application to the Chinese Consulate when you cancel your order, or in the unlikely event that your visa application is refused, we will be unable to provide a refund unfortunately.

Applying for your Chinese visa