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Your Chinese Visa Application

No expat assignment in China can begin without a visa! InterNations introduces you to the most relevant Chinese visa categories for expats, for both long-term and short-term stays. Learn where and when to apply, which documents to file, and what “single-entry” means when it comes to Chinese visas.
Visa applications are handled by Chinese embassies or specialized Visa Application Service Centers.

Where to Apply

You need to apply at your closest Chinese Visa Application Service Center or, if your country doesn’t have one, at your nearest Chinese embassy. At the Service Centers, postal applications are often also accepted. If you prefer to or actually have to visit in person, make an appointment to avoid long waiting times.

When to Apply

Ideally, you should apply for your visa around one month before you intend to enter China, two weeks at latest. Since visas are only valid for a limited amount of time (typically 1–3 months), you should, however, not apply too early. Otherwise, your visa may already be expired on the planned day of entry.

Provided everything is in order with your application, it typically takes around four working days to be processed. Postal applications may take somewhat longer with processing times of around ten working days.

Necessary Documents

In general, you will be asked to provide the following basic documents for your application:

  • your passport with blank visa pages and at least six more months of validity,
  • a filled-out visa application form (to be found online on the website of your respective Visa Application Service Center or Chinese embassy),
  • a recent passport photo, and
  • a copy of any previous Chinese visas (if not in current passport).

As we have already mentioned during the introduction of the different Chinese visa categories, further category-specific requirements may apply.

Single-, Double-, vs. Multiple-Entry

When completing your visa application form, you can state your preferred number of entries (single, double, or multiple). This denotes how often and in which time period you may enter the country with your visa.

Since even returning from a visit to Hong Kong or Macao counts as a new entry, make sure to write down your travel itinerary in the corresponding field of your visa application to stress your need for a double-entry or multiple-entry visa. However, even then you might still be issued a single-entry visa. If you do not plan to go abroad during your stay in China, a single-entry visa is the cheaper option anyway, as visa fees are typically higher for double-entry and multiple-entry visas.

The Next Steps

Once your visa application has been approved, you may travel to the People’s Republic of China. Make sure to do so before or at the latest on the date stated in the “enter before” field on your visa!

Furthermore, don’t forget that you will have to register your address in China with the police! For some visa categories (e.g. Z, X1, S1, and other long-term visa), you even need to obtain a temporary residence permit in the first 30 days after your arrival in China. You can find more information on these steps in our article on Chinese Residence Permits and Registration.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.