Apart from visa-free visit to Hong Kong & Macau, and the useful 72hrs-visa-free transit stays you will need a visa to visit China. Citizens from Japan, Singapore, Brunei, San Marino, Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Bahamas do not require a visa to visit China within a specified time (see pic at right). There remain a few restricted areas in China that require an additional permit, like Tibet. In order to visit Tibet, besides China Visa, you need a special permit, called Tibet Travel Permit(TTP). At the time of writing, Tibet Travel Permit(TTP) isn’t available for Norway & Bhutan citizens.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the expiry date of your visa (nine months for a double-entry visa) and you’ll need at least one entire blank page in your passport for the visa. For children under the age of 18, a parent must sign the application form on their behalf.
Applicants are required to provide the following:
*A copy of flight confirmation showing to/back from China, and for double-entry visas, flight confirmation showing all dates of entry and exit;
*If staying at a hotels in China, providing hotel info (this can be cancelled later if you stay elsewhere). If staying with friends or relatives, a copy of the information page of their passport, a copy of their China visa, letter of invitation from person inviting you (for friends/relatives/business only, not required for tourist visas if staying in a hotel/hostel);
*A standard 30-day-single-entry visa can be issued in 4-5 working days. In many countries, the visa service has been outsourced from the Chinese embassy to a Chinese Visa Application Service Centre, which levies an extra administration fee. These centres are generally open Monday to Friday and some require making an online appointment well in advance. A standard 30-day visa is activated on the date you enter China, and must be used within three months of the date of issue. 60-day and 90-day travel visas are harder to get. To stay longer, you can extend your visa in China, but it is not always easy to do so.
*Visa applications require a completed application form (available from the embassy, visa application service centre or downloaded from its website) and at least one photo (normally 51mm x 51mm). You generally pay for your visa when you collect it.
*Hong Kong is a good place to pick up a China visa. You can apply directly to the Visa Office of the People’s Republic of China. Three-day visas are also available at the Macau–Zhūhǎi border; US citizens have to buy a visa in advance in Macau or Hong Kong.
*When asked about your itinerary on the application form, list standard tourist destinations; if you are considering going to Tibet or western Xīnjiāng, just leave it off the form. The list you give is not binding. Those working in media or journalism may want to profess a different occupation; otherwise, a visa may be refused or a shorter length of stay than that requested may be given.
Hong Kong & Macau
Most visitors to Hong Kong or Macau, including citizens of the EU, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada, can enter and stay for 30 and 90 days without a visa. British passport holders get 180 days. If you visit Hong Kong or Macau from China, you will need a double-entry, multiple-entry or new visa to re-enter China. Your passport will be stamped upon entering Macau and Hong Kong each time, even for day trips.
There are 12 categories of visas (for most travellers, an L visa will be issued).
M Commercial and trade
Q1 Family visits (more than six months)
Q2 Family visits (less than six months)
R Talents/needed skills
S1 Visits to foreign relatives/private (more than six months)
S2 Visits to foreign relatives/private (less than six months)
J1 Journalist (more than six months)
J2 Journalist (less than six months)
X1 Student (more than six months)
X2 Student (less than six months)
C Flight attendant
F Business or student
72-hour visa free stays
Visitors from 51 nations can enter 14 different airports in China and are permitted to stay up to 72hrs without obtaining a visa. Travellers must have onward air travel booked to a third airport and may only visit the city or area designated part of the 72hrs-visa-free scheme. For example, a traveller with a ticket from London to Seoul, transiting through Beijing may alight in Beijing and stay for 72hrs (the clock starts ticking at the time your passport is stamped at Beijing Capital Airport). Alternately, a traveller with a ticket from London to Beijing and back to London will not be allowed to participate in the scheme (travel must be to an onward third airport), nor will rail travellers arriving in Beijing or Guangzhou overland.
Currently, participating areas include:
Guangzhou (travel is permitted within all of Guǎngdōng province)
Hangzhou (travel is permitted within all of Zhèjiāng province)
For China, the Foreign Affairs Branch of the local PSB deals with visa extensions.
First-time extensions of 30 days are usually easy to obtain on single-entry tourist visas; a further extension of a month may be possible, but you may only get another week. Travellers report generous extensions in provincial towns, but don’t bank on this. Popping across to Hong Kong to apply for a new tourist visa is another option.
The penalty for overstaying your visa in China is up to ¥500 per day. Some travellers have reported having trouble with officials who read the ‘valid until’ date on their visa incorrectly. For a one-month travel (L) visa, the ‘valid until’ date is the date by which you must enter the country (within three months of the date the visa was issued), not the date upon which your visa expires.
Carrying your passport
You must have your passport (护照; hùzhào) on you at all times; it is the most basic travel document and all hotels will insist on seeing it for check-in. It is now mandatory to present your passport when buying train tickets; you will also need it for using internet cafes that accept foreigners.
Take an ID card with your photo in case you lose your passport and make scans or photocopies of your passport: your embassy may need these before issuing a new one. You must report the loss to the local Public Security Bureau (PSB), who will issue you with a ‘Statement of Loss of Passport’.