2023 Chinese Visa Application Guidelines

Posted by Written by Giulia Interesse Reading Time: 6 minutes

From January 8, 2023, China has resumed the issuance of visas for foreign nationals. As the country continues to open up, we discuss the 2023 Chinese visa application guidelines. 

UPDATE (December 8, 2023): On December 8, 2023, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the Notice on Temporary Reduction of Fees for Applying Visa to China. According to this notice, during the period from December 11, 2023, to December 31, 2024, China shall cut visa fees by 25 percent across the board for foreign travelers. For more details, please consult with your local Chinese embassy or consulate.

UPDATE (March 14, 2023): Starting from March 15, 2023, China shall resume issuing all types of visas for foreigners, including the tourism visa, visa for medical treatment, port visa, and multiple visa-exemption policies.

China began easing immigration procedures on January 8, 2023, after the downgrading of COVID-19 to a Class B infectious disease and the removal of centralized quarantine for inbound travelers.

Beijing has promised to gradually resume the issuance of ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners, as well as tourist visa exemption for short-term travelers.

The lifting of quarantine regulations means that mainland Chinese residents can travel abroad for the first time since national borders were closed almost three years ago. China also announced the restart of pilot outbound tours to selected countries. Yet, it should be noted that visa resumption is a process.

As per announcements posted by some Chinese embassies, China has resumed visa applications for most types. Meanwhile, visa applications for tourism and medical treatment to China are currently still on hold. 

Foreigners who need to apply for China visas should confirm with their local Chinese embassies or consulates to find out if the visa they want to apply for is currently available or not.  

In this article, we provide the latest Chinese visa application guidelines and highlight the characteristics of each type of visa and the supporting documentation required. 

What type of Chinese visa can be applied for in 2023?

As per the announcement from most Chinese embassies, the following types of visas are available for application:

2023 Chinese Visa Application Guidelines
Visa Type Applicable Situation Main Features
  • Issued to foreigners who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities
  • Invitation Letter issued by the trade partner in China
  • Issued to foreigners who are invited to China for non-commercial purposes, such as research, lectures, and cultural exchanges
  • Invitation Letter issued by a relevant entity or individual in China
  • Issued to foreigners who are taking up a post or employment in China
  • Valid “Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work”
  • Issued to those who intend to study in China for more than 180 days
  • Visa Application for Study in China (original JW201 / JW202 Form)
  • The original Admission Letter issued by a school or other entities in China
  • Issued to those who intend to study in China for less than 180 days
  • The original Admission Notice issued by a school or other entities in China
  • Issued to those who intend to go to China to visit the foreigners working** or studying*** in China to s, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs, and the intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days
  • Invitation Letter issued by foreigners residing in China
  • Photocopy of the personal information page of the inviting individual’s passport and Residence Permit (or photocopy of Z visa / X1 visa application documents)
  • The original proof of kinship between the applicant and the inviting individual (e.g., Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificate etc.)

*In case of private affairs, relevant supporting documents shall be provided upon request

** the family member including spouses, parents, sons or daughters under the age of 18 or parents-in-law

*** Some embassies only accept S1/S2 visa application of those who have family members who are foreigners working in China, instead of studying in China

  • Invitation Letter issued by the Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China
  • Photocopy of the inviting individual’s Chinese ID card or the personal information page of the foreigner’s passport and photocopy of the Chinese Permanent Residence Permit
  • The original proof of kinship between the applicant and the inviting individual (e.g., Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificate etc.)
  • Issued to those who intend to visit their family members* who are foreigners working** or studying** *in China, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs, and the intended duration of the S2 visa is less than 180 days 
  • Issued to family members of Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China who intend to stay in China longer than 180 days  
  • Issued to family members of Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China who intend to visit China temporarily 
  • “Confirmation Letter for High-end Foreign Talents”

  • Issued to crewmembers on international aviation, sea navigation, and land transportation missions, and their accompanying family members 
  • Guarantee Letter from foreign transport company or the invitation letter issued by the relevant units in China 
  • Issued to foreigners who plan to live in China permanently (this visa is also known as “the Chinese green card” and is notoriously difficult to acquire) 
  • The original Confirmation Form for Foreigners Permanent Residence Status 
  • Issued to those who intend to transit through China 
  • An onward air (train or ship) ticket with confirmed date and seat to the destination country or region 
  • Issued to journalist who enters the country for interview and reporting 
  • Invitation letter issued by domestic inviting unit 

* Some applications require PU/TE letter 

Additional information and documentation may be needed, depending on the applicant’s place of origin, where the application is being submitted, and where the applicant plans to travel.

When dealing with visa-related processes, prospective travelers to China can contact their local Chinese embassy or consulate and seek specific guidance, as regulations may vary case-by-case.

Who does not need a visa to China?

The following categories of foreigners can enter China without a visa:

  • Foreigners covered by different agreements for reciprocal visa exemption: Based on specific bilateral agreements among countries, certain foreign nationals who satisfy specific criteria may enter China without a visa. For additional details, please refer to the updated list of agreements on visa exemption signed by China with other nations.
  • Foreigners who are eligible for the 24-hour visa-free transit arrangement: Foreigners who will only stay within the airport (and not cross the border) for no longer than 24 hours and have a valid connecting ticket with confirmed seating on an international aircraft, are free from needing a visa to transit through China by air.
  • Foreigners with various forms of valid residence permits: Foreign nationals who want to study, work, or are resident foreign journalists in China must apply for a residency permit from the local public security authorities within 30 days of their entrance. For the duration of the permit’s validity, permit holders can be in the country without the need to apply for a visa.
  • International travelers with current APEC business travel cards: The APEC Business Travel Card is an alternative to a three-year multiple-entry visa. A cardholder may enter China more than once during the card’s validity – for a stay of no longer than two months each time.
  • Foreigners with valid Permanent Residence Certificates in China.
  • Foreigners who will visit a China city where a 72/144-hour transit visa-free policy is applicable: Some cities allow travelers to visit the province of their arrival or a specific region without a visa for a certain period (72 hours or 144 hours). For a complete list of cities offering this policy and the eligible nationality of the foreign national, please read our article here.

What to do before entering China in 2023?

All travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, have to complete one PCR test within 48 hours before departure and to only board an aircraft if their nucleic acid result is negative.

The application for the health code is no longer necessary.

One PCR test may be taken in either the city of departure or the airport/city of your transfer if you are traveling to China via a third country.

For more information on China’s COVID-19 prevention and control measures, kindly refer to our tracker article.

China’s steps toward opening up in 2023

As illustrated above, the Announcement of the Optimized Policies and Measures for Immigration Administration after the Downgrade of COVID-19 Management with Measures Against Class B Infectious Diseases (Announcement), issued on December 27, 2022, by China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA), introduced several facilitations regarding visa applications for foreigners. This is a sign that China is slowly opening back up.

In the words of Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the 2023 World Economic Forum, China is on a clear path to “open up wider, and make it work better.”

In view of the recent positive policy transitions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its 2023 China growth outlook sharply to 5.2 percent (from 4.4 percent in its October 2022 forecast), citing the reopening of the country’s economy after Beijing lifted its tight COVID-19 restrictions.

Tourism will be among the industries to benefit the most from this new approach in 2023. China’s outbound tourism showed an impressive recovery during the 2023 Spring Festival period, with outbound tours booking and hotel occupancy reaching a three-year high.

In addition, while foreigners who hold 5-year or 10-year tourist visas are still unable to enter China as of January 2023, this type of visa may soon be valid again as proof of Beijing’s efforts to open to the world.

How we can help

As a professional business services provider, Dezan Shira & Associates can provide you with the necessary support to understand the most updated policies and status in a timely manner. Should you have any requests, please contact us without hesitation. You are welcome to email us at China@dezshira.com

About Us

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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