China is overhauling its immigration law regime. A new Exit-Entry Administration Law (EEAL), enacted by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, became effective July 1. New State Council regulations became effective September 1.
The law and regulations cover, among other things, visas, entry, and exit; stay, residence, and permanent residence; and investigation, penalties, and deportation.
The new immigration law regime is a work in progress. Further rules and guidance are expected from the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and Ministry of Education. Local governments are expected to revise their rules as well. For example, the Beijing Public Security Bureau published provisional Procedures of Visa/Stay Permit/Residence Permit Application for Foreign Citizens on September 5.
Our law firm is closely monitoring related developments and will update this FAQ periodically. Feel free to ask questions or add your thoughts in the comments section.
VISAS, STAY CERTIFICATES, AND RESIDENCE PERMITS, IN GENERAL
1. What’s the difference?
- Under the new law, PRC embassies, consulates, and other visa-issuing agencies outside of Mainland China (e.g., Chinese Visa Application Service Centers) are responsible for issuing visas (签证). (EEAL, art. 4). In narrow circumstances (e.g., emergencies) the public security bureau (PSB) at a port of entry (e.g., airport) can issue a single-entry visa valid for not more than 30 days (EEAL, art. 20).
- Also, the exit-entry office of the public security bureau (PSB) can issue visas to extend one’s stay (EEAL, art. 29; State Council regs, art. 12) or change the purpose of stay (State Council regs, art. 10) in Mainland China.
Residence Permits: J1, Q1, S1, X1, and Z visas are issued to individuals intending to enter China for purposes of taking up residence. These visas are valid for a single entry to China. Within 30 days of entry, these individuals must apply to a PSB exit-entry office for a residence permit (居留证件). (EEAL, art. 30; State Council regs, art. 9). Once issued, a residence permit can be used to enter China instead of a visa. (EEAL, art. 22).
Stay Certificates: Some categories of foreign nationals entering China may be granted stay certificates (停留证件) instead of visas or residence permits. For example:
- Foreign nationals whose governments have reciprocal visa waiver agreements with China (e.g., tourists from Singapore, Brunei, and Japan)
- Persons transiting through Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, or Dalian within 72 hours.
- Persons who renounce PRC nationality.
- Persons whose residence permits have been cancelled who wish to remain in China for up to 30 additional days as a “grace period” to travel wrap up their affairs in China.
- Persons whose visas or residence permits are cancelled or confiscated and who are ordered to depart the country by a specified date will be given a stay certificate valid until that date. (EEAL, art. 33).
2. What are the new visa classifications?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a bilingual Notice on Handling PRC Visa Applications (申请办理中华人民共和国签证须知) spelling out China’s new visa classifications. They are listed below. See our related article for further details.
|Visa Classification||Description of Visa|
|C||Issued to foreign crew members of aircraft, trains, and ships, or motor vehicle drivers engaged in cross-border transport activities, or to the accompanying family members of the crew members of the above-mentioned ships.|
|D||Issued to those who intend to reside in China permanently.|
|F||Issued to those who intend to go to China for exchanges, visits, study tours, and other activities.|
|G||Issued to those who intend to transit through China.|
|J1||Issued to resident foreign journalists of foreign news organizations stationed in China. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.|
|J2 (short-term)||Issued to foreign journalists who intend to go to China for short-term news coverage. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.|
|L||Issued to those who intend to go to China as a tourist.|
|M||Issued to those who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities.|
|Q1||Issued to those who are family members of Chinese citizens or of foreigners with Chinese permanent residence and intend to go to China for family reunion, or to those who intend to go to China for the purpose of foster care. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.”Family members” refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.|
|Q2 (short-term)||Issued to those who intend to visit their relatives who are Chinese citizens residing in China or foreigners with permanent residence in China. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.|
|R||Issued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China.|
|S1||Issued to those who intend to go to China to visit the foreigners working or studying in China to whom they are spouses, parents, sons or daughters under the age of 18 or parents-in-law, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.|
|S2 (short-term)||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 matters. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days. “Family members” refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.|
|X1||Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days.|
|X2 (short-term)||Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of no more than 180 days.|
|Z||Issued to those who intend to work in China.|
3. What are the new types of residence permits?
Under the regulations, residence permits are divided into the following types:
1. Residence permits for employment (工作类居留证件), issued to foreigners who will work in China. A person entering on a Z (work) visa would apply for this type.
2. Residence permits for study (学习类居留证件), issued to foreigners who will study in China. A person entering on an X1 (student) visa would apply for this type.
3. Residence permits for journalists (记者类居留证件), issued to foreign journalists who reside in China on behalf of permanent offices of foreign news agencies. A person entering on a J1 (journalist) visa would apply for this type.
4. Residence permits for family reunion (团聚类居留证件), issued to persons seeking to reside in China with Chinese citizen or permanent resident relatives, or who need to live in China for foster care. A person entering on a Q1 visa would apply for this type.
5. Residence permits for private affairs (私人事务类居留证件), issued to certain relatives of foreign nationals holding residence certificates for purposes of employment, study, etc. These permits are also issued to foreigners who need to reside in China to deal with other private affairs. A person entering on an S1 visa would apply for this type.
4. What is the duration of stay for the new visa classifications and residence permits?
Stay certificates and “short-term” visas will be issued for a maximum stay of 180 days. (EEAL, art. 34; State Council regs, art. 36(4)).
An employment-type residence permit may be issued valid for 90 days to 5 years. (EEAL, art. 30). In contrast, a residence permit issued other than for employment may be issued valid for 180 days to five years. (EEAL, art. 30).
The law and State Council regulations don’t specify how, within those ranges, to decide the length of stay for a particular individual’s stay visa or residence certificate. Local practices vary. According to the Beijing provisional procedures, for example:
|RESIDENCE PERMIT TYPE||Period of Validity|
|Residence permit for employment||Same period as the work permit or foreign expert certificate|
|Residence permit for study||Same period as shown on the certification documents of enrollment (but not shorter than 180 days).|
|Residence permit for family reunion||For an applicant under age 18 or over age 60, not longer than 3 years. (But for a person under age 18, the expiration date can’t exceed their 18th birthday). For others, from 180 days to 1 year.|
|Residence permit for private affairs||Same period as the host’s residence permit (but not shorter than 180 days)|
|VISA CLASSIFICATION||Entries if Granted New Visa Classification||Enter Before Date if Granted New Visa Classification||Duration of Extension or Each Stay Under New Visa Classification*|
|F||0, 1, 2, or multiple||Maximum 1 year||Maximum 180 days|
|L||Not available||Not available||Maximum 30 days extension|
|M||0, 1, 2, or multiple||Maximum 1year||Maximum 180 days|
|Q2||0, 1, 2, or multiple%|