Wouldn’t it be great to have visa free access to China? Foreigners enter China every day for pleasure, business, education, family or personal reasons. Most of them would probably not want to have to go through the process of applying for a visa. Unfortunately, not many people have visa free access to China.

Visa free access: when a visa is not required for foreigners

It is common practice for countries to require a visa from foreigners who enter their territories. China is no different.

However, you may have heard that a China visa is usually not required for tourists who enter via Hong Kong. It is possible for a foreigner to get to the mainland without possessing a visa. However, your freedom could be limited to specific instances. If you intend to travel to China without a visa, be aware that you may not be able to do so. even though some people get away with it. How?

Air travel can mean visa free access to China. In general, crews, as well as passengers of planes that transit through China, are not required to have a China visa. The flights are not directly destined for China but could be stopping over for various reasons. Passengers may stay within the airport complex, but they are not allowed to go beyond these areas. The plane and its passengers can stay at transit airports for about 24 hours or less.

The crew and passengers are also not required to have a China visa when the flight is merely transiting through the country via Hongqiao or Shanghai Pudong airports. They can stay in Shanghai for less than 48 hours. Do be aware that Chinese authorities can be strict in dealing with violators of the policy.

China has good diplomatic relations with many countries and has entered into agreements with them over visa requirements.Therefore citizens of certain nations are offered visa free access to China.

Ordinary passport holders from Japan, Brunei, and Singapore are not required have a visa when they enter China. Citizens of these countries are given visa free access to China, whether they are there for travel, business, transit or a holiday. However, their visa free access in the country is limited to a maximum of 15 days after their arrival. If they want to stay longer, they have to get a China visa.

Applying for a China visa – how to get the right one

All other visitors to China will require a visa. Tourist visas are issued for pleasure trips to China, so these are for people on vacation or who are visiting family who are permanent residents. A tourist visa is defined as a class ‘L’ visa. Being caught doing any business in China on a tourist visa can result in pretty bad fines and immediate deportation.

Within the class ‘L’ China visa are several types of admission including single entry, double entry and multiple entries. Each of these conditions appear on the same visa. A single entry visa means you can enter the country once and stay for a specified amount of time. Typical lengths are between three and six months. Double entry visas let you enter the country for a time, leave, and return within the specified amount of time. The length of time covered by double entry visas is also normally in the three to six-month range.

It is also possible to get a class ‘L’ China visa to visit for vacations, with multiple entries allowed. This type of tourist visa allows you to visit China multiple times within the time frame given, which is generally between six and twelve months.

If you are studying in China, on an exchange, or going on a study tour, you will need a type ‘F’ visa.

You will need a commerce and trade, type ‘M’ visa if you are invited to China to conduct business.

Like the tourist visa, most visas come in multiple entry types: single, double or multiple entries. Visas can be extended but you will need to apply for an extension of stay at a local public security bureau before the original permitted period of stay runs out. An additional 24 months can be granted under certain special circumstances, but you are never guaranteed an extension.

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There are many questions you might have about getting a visa if you do not have visa free access. The most common questions are discussed here.

I do not have visa free access, so how do I apply for a visa for China?

This is the most commonly asked question.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the main Chinese agency that oversees and manages applications and processing of visas. It authorizes all Chinese embassies and consulates around the world to accept and process China visa applications for foreigners who intend to visit the country. Any China visa applicant could also process his or her application through a reliable and reputable touring or travel agency.

So you can apply for a China visa by visiting your local post office, a private passport processor, online visa processors, or your Chinese embassy. It is not difficult to get a China visa as long as you submit all the requirements, which include a completed application form, passport, and recent passport-size photographs.

There are several spaces on the application that can be checked about your reasons for visiting China. If don’t know which China visa you need, don’t panic. Just check all the items on the application that apply to you. There are several categories including: study tour, tourism, visiting relatives, studying, transit, commerce, introduced talent, journalist and even commercial performance. Whatever you plan to do in China, the Chinese consulate will issue the right visa based on this information.

What documents need to be submitted along with my China visa application?

There are a few documents that you will need to attach to your China visa application. First, you should include a passport that will be valid for at least six more months. The passport should have at least two blank pages remaining. You will also need to provide a photo that was taken at the same time as your passport’s and proof of your travel plans. This could simply be your airline tickets. You will also need to be able to prove that you already have a hotel reservation in China. You can have your request for a China visa declined by failing to provide just one of these pieces of documentation.

How do I submit my application?

You can submit your application by mail, or you can deliver it to any Chinese consulate. Check the process with online processors as they may vary.

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Who needs to submit a China visa application?

Anyone who tries to enter the country without showing an approved China visa will be turned away. So do not assume you have visa free access unless you have a passport issued in Japan, Brunei or Singapore.

How far in advance should I apply for a visa for China?

You cannot apply for a visa more than three months before your trip. But you should apply for your China visa as close to three months before your departure date. This will give each department involved time to assess your application. Sometimes people need to make an unexpected trip to China. If this applies, you can easily have the application approval process sped up by paying higher fees.

How long will my China visa remain valid?

Normally, a valid China visa will be valid for at least sixty days. The sixty days will begin the day after you enter the country. There are different types of China visas which remain valid for an extended period. Business and education visas are usually valid longer. A tourist visa to China can be extended for ninety days, but it is up to the Chinese consulate to approve this extension.

These are just some of the questions asked about China visas. Hopefully, you have the basics now so it will make planning your trip to China a little easier.

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