How to Get a Visa for China

By Jack Yang / July 24, 2019

Home to ancient temples, diverse landscapes, and mouth-watering food, China is a beautiful country worth exploring. Between booking flights, trains, and hotels, you’ll also need to see if a visa is required for your trip. And in this article, we’ll help you figure out how to get a visa for China.

Do You Need a Visa to Go to China?

US citizens are required to have a visa before entering mainland China. Along with a visa, US citizens also need a current passport with at least six months validity.

Without a valid passport and visa, you will not be allowed to enter China. And in some cases, you may be deported or required to pay a fine. For more information, you can read this article about visa to China.

Types of Visas for China

Depending on your reason for traveling to China, you will be required to apply for one of the following visas:

L Visa – Tourist Visa

If you plan to travel to China for vacation, you can apply for an L visa, or tourist visa. During the application process, you can choose between a single entry, double entry, or multiple entry visas.

The visa is valid for 3, 6, or 12 months, and for stays between 30-60 days. However, US Citizens can also apply for an L visa that’s valid for ten years. On the ten year L visa, you can enter China as many times as you’d like within the ten year period.

M Visa – Business Visa

The M visa is ideal for foreigners who visit China for work. You can apply for a single entry, double entry, or multiple entry visa ranging from one month to ten years. If you plan to make numerous business trips to China, then you should apply for the multiple entry M visa.

Z Visa – Work Visa

If you get a job in China, then you can move for the purpose of employment with a Z visa. The Z visa itself is a single entry. However, you’ll need to register for a residence permit within 30 days of entering China, which will allow you to leave and enter the country as many times as you’d like.

X Visa – Student Visa

The X visa is issued to students who are enrolled in a Chinese college or university. If you are studying in China for less than six months, you’ll be given the single-entry X2 visa. But if you plan to be in China for longer than six months, you’ll get the multiple entry X1 visa.

C Visa – Crew Member Visa

American citizens working in international transportation can also apply for the C visa. If you are a crew member for an airline, cruise ship, or any cross-border company, you can apply for a multiple-entry five year C visa.

J Visa – Journalist Visa

Journalists working for a foreign news organization can enter and work in China through the J visa. You can stay in China for over 180 days with the J-1 visa, and under 180 days with the J-2 visa.

G Visa- Transit Visa

You still need to obtain a visa to enter China, even if it’s not your intended destination. If you want to explore the country during a layover, or need to travel through China on your way to Mongolia, you will need to apply for a G visa. The maximum length of stay on the G visa is between 7 – 10 days.

How to Get a Visa for China

To apply for a China visa, you will need to submit your application to the Chinese embassy or consulate. In the US, there is one embassy in Washington DC, and five consulates in Chicago, Houston, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

If you do not live near an embassy or consulate, you can send someone on your behalf to submit the application for you.

One of the easiest ways to get a China visa is to use a visa courier service. Once you submit your passport and necessary documents to the courier service, they will visit the embassy and apply for your visa. Once the visa is approved, they will mail back your passport and visa directly to your house.

China Visa Application Process

Applying for a China visa is relatively straightforward. Although the required documents will vary depending on what type of visa you are applying for, the following steps will be the same.

Gather all Required Documents

Before you submit your application, you will need to collect the following documents:

  • Passport (with one blank page and six months validity remaining)
  • Completed visa application
  • Passport style photograph
  • Proof of roundtrip flight or accommodation or invitation letter from Chinese family, friends or travel agency.

Submit Documents to the Chinese Embassy

Once you have your application, you will need to submit it directly to one of the Chinese embassies or consulates.

If you do not live near one, or if you are not able to apply in person, you can entrust someone else to submit your application on your behalf. This can be a friend, a relative, or even an employee with a travel agency.

Where to Find the China Visa Application Form

You can download the China visa application form directly from the Chinese Embassy. Alternatively, you can visit the embassy to receive a paper copy of the application form.

To apply, you need to fill out all four pages of the form. This can be completed online or by hand.

If you are applying for a work (Z) or student (X) visa, you will also need to fill out additional application forms. These forms can also be found on the website of the Chinese Embassy.

China Visa Requirements for US Citizens

To apply for a tourist L visa, you will need to have the following required documents:

  • Passport (with one blank page and six months validity remaining)
  • Completed visa application
  • Passport style photograph
  • Proof of roundtrip flight or accommodation or invitation letter from Chinese family, friends or travel agency

It’s also important to note that other China visa types might have additional requirements. For instance, student visa (X) applicants need to be enrolled full-time in a China college or university. And work visa (Z) applicants are required to have a paid job offer as well as a work permit.

You can review the specific requirements for your desired visa online through the Chinese Embassy.

China Visa Photo Requirements

Along with your application and passport, you will also need to submit a passport-style photo. This photo should include your head and shoulders and be taken against a white background.  The size of the picture also needs to be 35mm x 45mm.

China Visa Cost

Visa fees depend on your nationality and length of stay. But for US citizens, the cost for every type of visa is the same price.

Single entry, double entry, and multiple entry visas cost $140 USD.

If you pay for the expedited service, you need to pay an additional fee of $20 per visa. And if you want same-day processing, it’s an additional $30 per visa.

Keep in mind that using a courier service to submit your application will cost more as well.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Visa for China?

Once the embassy or consulate receives your application, you will need to wait for the visa to be processed. Generally speaking, this takes an average of four business days.

Expedited and same-day processing is also available for an extra fee. With the expedited process, you can get your visa within three or four days. And with same-day processing, you’ll get your visa within 24 hours of submitting your application.


About the author

Jack Yang

Hey! We're Jack and Liu and we're on a mission to explore all the historical wonders of the world! You can call it luck, fate, coincidence, a sign... Whatever you like to call it, our stories started separately before merging into one beautiful experience. Before our paths crossed, we were both just random individuals, traveling the world, visiting historical monuments and ruins, imagining how those landscapes looked like centuries ago. Then, Beijing happened, we met, we fell in love, we found each other. Our love story starts in Beijing where we met one rainy day whilst exploring the magical city. Two months later, we dropped everything, quit our jobs and went to travel the world together. We are both big history nerds and love to geek out by playing stupid historical guessing games together... We are China Geeks! Travel the world with us as we history-our-way around the world!