Every foreign visitor to China needs a visa to enter the country and these must be obtained in advance (with the exception of arrivals to Hong Kong, Macau and HainanIsland), not at the point of entry as is the case with some other Asian countries.
Visas can be obtained by either applying in person at the nearest Chinese embassy, through an agency or by mail (although this is no longer possible in the UK). Complete visa applications will need to include all required fees, a passport photo, a passport with at least one blank page, six months validity and possibly proof of onward travel.
Find here Chinese embassies and consulates .
For all visa types you must enter within three months of the issue date. Standard tourist visas (L-type) are the most common and are usually granted for 30 days to a maximum of six months. If you’re coming here to work, you can apply for an F or Z visa and you’ll need a letter of invitation from the company you’ll be working with in China.
To study in China you can apply for an X visa and will need a letter from the college where you’ll be studying.
Note that citizens of most Western countries do not need a visa to visit Hong Kong or Macau for periods of under a month. In Hong Kong you can easily arrange a China visa from a local travel agent or the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Wherever you get your visa, it will cost between US$30 for a single entry to over US$150 for a two- to five-year multiple entry visa.
Please visit the links hereunder and check the current requirements and prices as well as the additional entry requirements for visitors to Tibet.
Extending your Visa
If you need to extend your visa while in China, this can be done by visiting the local Public Security Bureau (PSB). Visa extension applications will need to be supported by justification, more passport photos and payment.
Costs, duration of processing and length of extension all vary from city to city – visa extensions are by no means a right and are sometimes refused; some travelers search out small town PSBs as they are thought to be more generous with extra time granted.
If the PSB won’t extend your visa, the only options left are to try in another town, or head to Hong Kong to apply for a new visa, which can be issued within a day or two (outside of weekends). PSBs are generally open Mondays to Fridays from and . If you do overstay your visa for any reason you will usually be fined ¥500 for each extra day you have spent in the country, although long overstays can incur harsher penalties.
Customs and immigration
However you arrive, you’ll have to go through immigration and customs, which can be a lengthy process and you’ll need to fill in an arrival card and a quarantine form. Note that if you have any particularly valuable items (or over US$5000 cash) you are supposed to declare them upon entry. You’re not allowed to bring more than ¥6000 in Chinese money, 400 cigarettes or two liters of alcohol.
Firearms, recreational drugs and animals are all prohibited items and, theoretically, you can’t bring in media material critical of China, though this is seldom enforced. Note that if you buy any antiques over 100 years old during your trip, you must obtain an export form (available from Friendship Stores) before departing. It is illegal to take anything home that dates from before Qianlong’s death in 1795.
China Travel guide homepage