How to Get a Chinese Visa? Everything You Need to Know!

HSK 3 quiz

Since the Beijing Olympics of 2008, there has been a large increase in the amount of foreign travelers coming into China. In recent years, with China’s economic and cultural rise, more and more people are choosing to come to China for travel, work and study. Just as Chinese people are traveling abroad in record numbers, so are foreign travelers entering China in record numbers each year. President Xi Jinping has described tourism as a “bridge between civilizations and cultures” and has encouraged Chinese to travel abroad and for China to accept more foreign tourists. Except for a few nationalities such as Vietnamese, every tourist to China will require a visa to be granted entry to China. In this article, I will list some common questions that potential visitors have when considering the China visa, or “签证 (qiānzhèng).”
签 (Qiān) = a verb, meaning to sign or endorse; also a noun, meaning a slip of paper or label.

证 (Zhèng) = a verb, meaning to prove, confirm or verify; also a noun, meaning proof.

签证 (Qiānzhèng) = a noun, meaning entry permits for people from other countries or regions to enter a country’s borders.

I am a Mandarin Chinese language student currently studying in Beijing. Prior to securing my study visa, I have been through the application process for a few Chinese tourist visas. I put together my experience to help you navigate the visa application process.

Here are my answers to 10 common questions that visa applicants to China will have when applying for the China visa:
#1: Where can I apply for a visa?

Foreign citizens should apply for visas in advance to a Chinese “大使馆 (dàshǐ guǎn) embassy” or consulate authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Chinese embassies and consulates abroad are divided into consular districts. Applicants are encouraged to apply for visas from the embassy or consulate of their place of residence for best results.

Key word:

大使馆 (Dàshǐ guǎn) = embassy

#2: How to check up on the progress of your application?

For some special circumstances, the embassies and “领事馆 (lǐngshìguǎn) consulates” abroad also have the right to extend the time for approval of the visa. After the approval, applicants will be notified by phone or email. If you have special requests, you can contact the relevant embassy or consulate by telephone.

Key word:

领事馆 (Lǐngshìguǎn) = consulate

#3: Can the visa be processed for “延期 (Yánqī) extension”?

After the visa expires, the applicant should apply again. When applying for a visa, the parties should indicate the duration and dates of stay in China on the visa application form.

Key word:

延期 (Yánqī) = extension

#4: What is the meaning of the residence certificate “免签 (miǎn qiān) exemption”?

Foreigners holding a valid residence certificate may stay in China for multiple periods of entry and exit during the period of validity of their residence permit, and no additional visa is required. Those who hold a permanent residence certificate for foreigners may stay in China and enter and leave the country several times without a separate visa.

Key word:

免签 (Miǎnqiān) = exemption

#5: What are some urgent issues to be aware of when preparing visa application materials?

The types of visas available are classified according to the reasons for entry: study visa, tourist visa, work visa, business visa and family visa. The consular officer may request that the “申请人 (shēnqǐng rén) applicant” provide the corresponding invitation letter. If necessary, the consular officer may request that the applicant provide other supporting documents or supplementary materials according to the circumstances, or require the applicant to accept the interview. It is best to call your local consulate or embassy to get up-to-date application information.

Key word:

申请人 (Shēnqǐng rén) = applicant

#6: Is there an expedited service?

If you need an expedited service, please inform the “签证官 (qiānzhèng guān) visa officer” when you submit your visa application and documents. Upon submitting a good reason, the staff can usually meet your requirements, but this requires you to pay an additional fee for the service.

Key word:

签证官 (Qiānzhèng guān) = visa officer

#7: What is the meaning of the visa entry “有效期 (yǒuxiàoqī) validity period”?

If there is no special mark, the visa will be effective from the date of issuance and will expire at 24:00 Beijing time on the expiration date listed. If there are still unused entry times listed, the holder can enter the country before the expiration date.

Key word:

有效期 (Yǒuxiàoqī) = validity period

#8: What should the applicant pay attention to when submitting a visa “申请 (shēnqǐng) application”?

Answer the visa officer’s inquiries truthfully. According to relevant Chinese laws and international practices, consular officers have the right to ask the applicant to produce other relevant documents and have the right to refuse to issue a visa without giving reasons. The type, frequency, expiration date and duration of the visa shall be determined by the visa officer in accordance with the relevant regulations and in conjunction with the applicant’s request.

Key word:

申请 (Shēnqǐng) = application

#9: What is the meaning of “number of entries” on the visa?

When the “入境次数 (rùjìng cìshù) number of entries” are used up, the visa will automatically expire. If you need to come to China again, you must apply for a visa again. If the number of entries has not been exhausted, but the validity period has passed, you must reapply for a new visa. If you already have used your visa (single-entry) to enter China, you will be denied entry.

Key word:

入境次数 (Rùjìng cìshù) = number of entries

#10: What is the meaning of “停留期 (tíngliú qī) duration of each stay”?

This refers to the maximum number of days that the holder can stay in China from the date of entry. If it is necessary to extend the stay time in China, the holder must go to the local public security office to apply for an extension before the expiration of the stay.

Key word:

停留期 (Tíngliú qī) = duration of each stay

So, before you make hotel reservations in China, be sure that you’ve taken these steps to understand the Chinese visa process and are familiar with the application process and visa information. I hope your application is successful and that you have a great trip!

HSK 3 quiz

1. Which of the following place can’t apply for a visa?

A. 图书馆 (Túshū guǎn)

B. 大使馆 (Dàshǐ guǎn)

C. 领事馆 (Lǐngshìguǎn)

―Written by Philip Reed―

Philip Reed is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing. He has been studying for one year in China and before that had an interest in Chinese at university in the U.S. He loves Chinese music and culture and can sing a few Mandarin songs at the KTV when he has free time!

More resources about traveling in China:

4 Must-Know Facts of Daily Life in China!
How to Buy Train Tickets in Chinese (Part I)
Basic Sentences to Help Tourists Get Around China

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