FAQ: China’s New Visa Law


China_VisaChina 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, 2013. New State Council regulations became effective Sept. 1, 2013.

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 Sept. 5, 2013.

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.


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 ClassificationDescription of Visa
CIssued 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.
DIssued to those who intend to reside in China permanently.
FIssued to those who intend to go to China for exchanges, visits, study tours, and other activities.
GIssued to those who intend to transit through China.
J1Issued 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.
LIssued to those who intend to go to China as a tourist.
MIssued to those who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities.
Q1Issued 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.
RIssued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China.
S1Issued 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.
X1Issued 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.
ZIssued 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 certificate, visa, or residence certificate. Local practices vary. According to the Beijing provisional procedures, for example:

Residence permit for employmentSame period as the work permit or foreign expert certificate
Residence permit for studySame period as shown on the certification documents of enrollment (but not shorter than 180 days).
Residence permit for family reunionFor 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 affairsSame period as the host’s residence permit (but not shorter than 180 days)
VISA CLASSIFICATIONEntries if Granted New Visa ClassificationEnter Before Date if Granted New Visa ClassificationDuration of Extension or Each Stay Under New Visa Classification**
F0, 1, 2, or multipleMaximum 1 yearMaximum 180 days
L0, 1, 2, or multipleMaximum 1 year*Maximum 30 days extension
M0, 1, 2, or multipleMaximum 1 year*Maximum 180 days
Q20, 1, 2, or multipleMaximum 1 year*Maximum 180 days
R0, 1, 2, or multipleMaximum 5 yearsMaximum 180 days
S20, 1, 2, or multipleMaximum 1 year*Maximum 180 days
X20, 1, 2, or multipleMaximum 1 yearMaximum 180 days

* The U.S. and China have mutually agreed to increase visa validity for these visa classifications to 10 years. Canada and China subsequently reached a similar agreement.

** For a person granted an extension of stay, the cumulative time of all extensions should not exceed the originally allotted period of stay as shown on the visa. (EEAL, art. 29). For a person who changes to a new visa classification, the cumulative period of stay since the date of the most recent entry should not exceed one year. (Beijing provisional procedures).

5. What are the grounds of ineligibility?

The following are grounds for denying a visa, residence certificate, stay certificate, or entry to China (EEAL, arts. 21, 25; State Council regs., art 21):

a. The foreign national has infectious tuberculosis or other infectious diseases that might seriously endanger public health. (EEAL, art. 21). Further, the Exit-Entry Inspection and Quarantine Bureau prohibits entry of persons who suffer from serious mental illness. Implementing Rules of the PRC Health and Quarantine Law, State Council No. 574 (Apr. 24, 2010). The 2010 amendment to these Rules removed the prohibition on entry for persons with AIDS.

b. The foreign national practices fraud in the application process.

c. The foreign national is unable to guarantee that he or she can cover the costs for the period in China.

d. The foreign national is unable to submit relevant information requested by the visa-issuing office or exit-entry administration.

e. In the case of an applicant to the exit-entry administration, he or she is in violation of relevant laws and regulations. This could include, for example, a person who during the current stay has worked without authorization (see EEAL, art. 43), failed to report to the exit-entry administration a change in the purpose of his or her stay (see EEAL, art. 34), or overstayed.

f. The foreign national may engage in activities in China inconsistent with his or her visa classification.

g. The foreign national has been deported or expelled but not fulfilled the required number of years abroad before seeking readmission.

h. The foreign national might undermine China’s national security and interests, disturb social public order, or be engaged in other illegal criminal activities.

i. Other circumstances cause the visa-issuing agency or exit-entry administration to believe it would be inappropriate to issue the visa, residence certificate, or stay certificate.

j. In the case of a foreign national seeking entry to China, other laws or regulations prohibit entry.

6. Who needs a medical exam?

Visa applicants: Under prior rules, foreigners coming to China for residence one year or longer should, when applying for visas at the Chinese embassy or other visa issuing agency abroad, get a medical exam. (2010 Implementing Rules, art. 6). Under the new regulations, this is no longer a requirement. Now, a visa-issuing agency will require a medical exam only if the officer has particular concerns about the applicant’s health condition.

Employment license applicants:
Rules require a health certificate as part of the application for an employment license. (1996 regs on the Employment of Foreigners, art. 11).

Residence permit applicants:

  • The new State Council regulations require a health certificate for anybody applying for a residence permit valid for one year or more.
  • The new regulations don’t adopt a provision in the draft regulations (art. 22) that would have exempted minors under age 16 from the medical exam. However, local rules may have the same result. For example, Beijing doesn’t require a medical exam from applicants under age 18.
  • As in the past, the exam is valid for 6 months (State Council regs, art. 16), so it may be possible to use the same certificate as used for the employment license. The regulations don’t require a medical from applicants extending a residence permit, changing from one type of residence permit to another, or replacing a residence permit. (State Council regs, art. 17).


7. When is a Z (work) visa required, as opposed to an M (business) visa?

A Z (work) visa is required if a foreign national has a labor relationship with a PRC work unit. In addition, a foreigner with a foreign labor contract and foreign source of remuneration will need a Z (work) visa if engaged in work-like activities for 3 months or more. According to a Labor Department order:

For foreigners working (工作) in China, if the labor contract is concluded with a domestic work unit (in its legal place), regardless of how long the work in China will be, it will be considered employment (就业) in China. If the labor contract is concluded with a legal entity abroad, the source of compensation is abroad, and the work in China is for three months or more (not including foreign engineers and technicians and experts implementing a technology transfer agreement), it is considered employment in China, in which case an employment license should be applied for at the Labor Department’s license-issuing authority according to the Regulations, so a work visa should be applied for, as well as a work permit and residence permit.

It’s unclear whether the Labor Department order will be modified in light of the new law, but so far it remains in effect.

8. Is there any update on what qualifications are required for a Z (work) visa?

Existing rules require that Z visas be reserved for positions for which the employer has a “special need” and that is currently a “shortage” occupation in China. (1996 regs on the Employment of Foreigners, art. 6). These fairly vague rules lend themselves to varying local interpretations.

In Guangdong Province, 2011 rules require the provincial government to formulate and publish a list of occupations for foreign nationals’ employment, specifying encouraged and restricted occupations, in light of the economic and social development level and based on the supply and demand of human resources. (Interim Provisions of Guandgong Province on Administration of and Services to Aliens, art. 30).

The new Exit-Entry Administration Law is based on the Guangdong model. Various departments should cooperatively formulate and periodically adjust a guidance list regarding special need / shortage occupations. The list should be based on economic and social development needs, as well as the supply of and demand for human resources. (Art. 42). No such list has been published yet. It remains to be seen how the new law will be interpreted and enforced.

9. Is there any update on R visas for foreign talent?

As mentioned above, R visas will be issued to foreign high-level talents that China needs and to specialized talents that are urgently needed due to short supply. (State Council regs, arts. 6(9), 7(9)).
The draft State Council regulations would have required that a provincial level department or higher make the determination that a foreigner qualifies (art. 9(9)), but that requirement was deleted from the final regulations.

Before R visas can be issued (on more than the current ad-hoc basis), further rules will need to be issued–probably by the State Administration for Foreign Expert Affairs–to define their requirements and procedures.

10. Who needs a criminal background check?

The new law and State Council regulations don’t specifically require a criminal background check. In fact, while the draft State Council regulations required submission of a “certificate of no criminal conviction” at the visa application stage (art. 8), that was dropped in the final regulations (art. 7). Still, agencies have the power to create rules requiring a criminal background check. For example, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security announced that employment license applicants will need to submit a “certificate of no criminal conviction” (also known as a police clearance letter) effective July 1. Beijing, Qingdao, and Hangzhou have joined other cities, such as Suzhou and Nanjing, which already had similar requirements in place. For more information, see Police Clearance Letters for Foreign Workers: Now Required in Beijing, Qingdao, Hangzhou Too.


11. What are the penalties for unauthorized employment?

The National People’s Congress’ overriding policy in enacting the law was to more harshly punish foreigners who illegally enter, live, or work in China. For a foreigner who engages in “unauthorized employment” (非法就业), a fine of 5000 to 20,000 RMB will be imposed. In serious circumstances, detention of five to 15 days may also be imposed. (EEAL, art. 80). Prior rules allowed fines not exceeding 1000 RMB but not detention. (Implementing Rules for the Foreigner Entry-Exit Administration Law, promulgated by the Ministries of Public Security and Foreign Affairs, April 24, 2010 art. 44.)

Persons or companies that illegally employ foreigners may be fined 10,000 RMB per foreigner, not to exceed a total of 100,000 RMB. Any illegal gains may be confiscated. (EEAL, art. 80). Prior rules allowed for fines not exceeding 50,000 RMB. (2010 Implementing Rules, art. 44). On a related note, if a foreign entity uses a foreign national (or a PRC citizen) to establish a representative office or conduct business activities of a representative office without registration, the registration authority may order it to suspend activities and impose a penalty of RMB 50,000 to 200,000. (Administrative Regulations on the Registration of Resident Representative offices of Foreign Enterprises, art. 35).

Persons or companies who introduce jobs to ineligible foreigners may be fined 5,000 RMB per job, not to exceed a total of 50,000 RMB for a person or 100,000 RMB for a company. Any illegal gains may be confiscated. (EEAL, art. 80).

Foreigners who have violated the immigration law may be given a deadline to depart voluntarily, if appropriate, or deported. A person who has been deported is not allowed to reenter for one to five, or 10 years in the case of “severe” violations. (EEAL, arts. 62 and 81). A foreign national is responsible to pay the costs related to his or her own deportation. If the foreigner is unable to afford the expenses and engaged in illegal employment, the work unit or individual employing the alien is responsible. (State Council regs, art. 32).

12. How is unauthorized employment defined?

The new law defines behavior that “shall” be deemed “unlawful employment” (非法就业):

    • First, “work” (工作) in China without obtaining an employment license and residence permit for work is illegal. (EEAL, art. 43(1)).
    • Second, it’s illegal to work in China beyond the scope of the work specified in the employment license (“出工作许可限定范围在中国境内工作的”). (EEAL, art. 43(2)). The draft State Council regulations clarified that this includes working at a different work unit or outside of the geographic area specified in the employment license (工作许可证件) are restricted. (Draft State Council regs, art. 40). While the final regulations omit these specifics, they are probably implied. One ambiguity is the extent to which an employee working in one city can be assigned to work short-term in other cities.
    • Third, it’s illegal for foreign students to do work that violates work-study rules or goes beyond the scope of the position or hours approved by the exit-entry administration. (EEAL, art. 43(3).) As background, a student with a residence certificate who needs to take a part-time job or internship off campus shall obtain approval from the school, then apply to the exit-entry administration authorities for a notation to the residence certificate showing the part-time job or the location and period of internship off campus. (EEAL, art. 42). The law delegates to the Ministry of Education the obligation to establish a framework for foreign students to obtain work authorization. (EEAL, art. 42.) Presumably, that framework will cover any rules related to on-campus employment.

An underlying issue is how “work” should be defined. Under the draft State Council regulations, a labor relationship can be found to exist without a written labor contract, so long as there is a “de facto labor relationship with a work unit.” (Art. 41). The final State Council Regulations omit this provision. But the Labor Contract Law makes the same point. (Arts. 11, 14, 82). So, for example, merely labeling the foreign national an “independent contractor” or a “freelancer” or an “intern” will not allow an employer to escape liability for unauthorized employment where the facts establish that there is a labor relationship. Similarly, a 1994 government notice warned against illegal employment disguised as “exchange” or “training.

Nor can foreign nationals escape liability for unauthorized employment by claiming they are self-employed in China. Chinese law recognizes something similar to self-employment, namely, the individual industrial and commercial enterprise (IICE or 工商个体户). A Chinese citizen may register an IICE. (General Principles of Civil Law, art. 26, adopted by the NPC and promulgated by the President on Apr. 12, 1986; Regulations on Individual Businesses, art. 2, adopted by the State Council on Mar. 30, 2011). Hong Hong and Macao residents who are Chinese citizens, as well as Taiwan residents, may also register an IICE. (Id., art. 27). However, foreign nationals do not have this right.

As explained above, a foreign national who enters into a labor relationship with a PRC work unit is “working” in China. Moreover, “work” takes place if a foreigner with a foreign labor contract and foreign source of remuneration is engaged in work-like activities for 3 months or more, according to the Labor Department order cited above.

13. “I’ve been offered a job in China. The employer says I should first to apply for an tourist or business visa to start work, then they will shift me to a work visa. Does that sound right?”

You can’t work for a China employer with a tourist or business visa. The statute is clear that work for a Chinese employer without a work-type residence permit is illegal. (EEAL, art. 43(1)). It’s a common scam for agencies/employers that are unable to secure such a permit to bring employees to China to work illegally with non-work visas. Further, without a work-type residence permit, you lack the legal protections afforded by a labor relationship, such as the right to use labor arbitration to seek unpaid wages.

Similarly, don’t come on the promise that after arrival the employer will seek authorization for you to work. As mentioned above, they can’t put you to work until you actually hold a work-type residence permit, and with narrow exceptions it’s not possible to change from a non-work visa to a work-type residence permit within China; instead, the applicant normally needs to seek a Z visa at a PRC consulate or other visa-issuing agency abroad.

Some employers will argue that the foreigner is not actually “working” so doesn’t need a work-type residence permit. As mentioned above, however, if the facts show that the foreign national’s activities constitute work, the absence of a written labor contract is not controlling. For example, merely labeling the foreigner an “independent contractor” or a “freelancer” will not be a cure where the facts establish that there is a labor relationship. Working in China without a work-type residence permit is engaging in high-risk behavior.


14. What work authorization and internship opportunities are available to foreign students with residence certificates for study?

Under State Council regulations, a person with a residence certificate for study who wants to take a part-time job or internship off campus should obtain approval from the school, then apply to the PSB Exit-Entry Administration for a notation to the residence certificate showing the part-time job or the location and period of internship off campus. (State Council regs, art. 22). Notice that short-term students with X2 visas do not have such opportunities.

The law delegates to the Ministry of Education the obligation to establish a framework for foreign students to obtain work authorization. (EEAL, art. 42.). To date, the national framework has not been published. But some local policies have been established. For example:

  • Shanghai has issued interim rules that allow for off-campus practical training without pay (except for reimbursement of travel and meal expenses).
  • Beijing’s Zhongguancun Science Park allows foreign students at Beijing universities, with the university’s agreement and recommendation letter, to apply to the PSB exit and entry authorities to add to their residence permits for study an “innovation” annotation to concurrently carry out innovative activities.
  • Dalian’s High Tech Industrial Zone allows foreign students to engage in practical training with approval from the school, employer, and PSB.

Yet in many cities it’s not yet possible to apply for authorization for a part-time job or internship, except on an ad-hoc basis.

It’s illegal for foreign students to work without authorization or beyond the scope authorized. (EEAL, art. 43(3).)

In contrast, under former rules, “work-study” was allowed in accordance with the school’s regulations. (Rules on Foreign Student Enrollment in Institutions of Higher Education, promulgated Jan. 31, 2000, by the Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs, and Public Security, art. 36).

15. “Which visa is appropriate to do an internship in China if I have no residence certificate for study?”

In the past, activities permissible with an F visa expressly included “internships lasting less than six months.” (2010 Implementing Rules, art. 4(4)). However, any reference to internships has been deleted from current regulations. Now, under the State Council regulations, art. 6:

  • F visas are for noncommercial “exchanges, visits, inspections, etc.”
  • M visas are “commerce or trade.”

The omission of any reference to internships has created  a legal ambiguity as to which visa, if any, is appropriate for an internship. A clear statement of policy should be provided by the government to resolve the ambiguity.

One interpretation is that by deleting reference to internships the State Council intended to make that activity impermissible with an M or F visa.

Consistent with this interpretation, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) told the American Chamber of Commerce-China orally on Nov. 25, 2013, that the Ministry intended to prohibit internships with F or M visas because in the past so-called “internships” were actually employment in disguise for persons who were ineligible for work visas because, for example, they lacked the degree and experience needed for a work visa or they directly competed with recent Chinese graduates for jobs in occupations where there was no labor market shortage. A MOFA representative has also told our firm that they have issued internal written instructions to consulates that M and F visas are not to be issued for purposes of internships.

This interpretation is bolstered by the regulations on internships by X1 students holding residence permits, who are required to get approval by their schools and the PSB Exit-Entry Administration before engaging in an off-campus internships, and who are considered to have engaged in unauthorized employment if they engage in any work beyond the scope authorized. (EEAL, art. 43(3); State Council regs, art. 22). These rules seem to classify an internship as “work” requiring permission to work from the PSB.

A contrary interpretation of the ambiguous regulations is that although the M and F regulations don’t specifically mention internships, they are nonetheless permissible.  Buttressing this argument are the 1996 Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreign Nationals, art. 8 (not specifically repealed by the new State Council regulations), stating that an internship is not work. However, given the weakness of this argument, employers, interns, and third-party referrers (e.g., headhunters and agencies that arrange internships) all should be aware of the legal risks of these arrangements.

Interestingly, in Beijing’s Zhongguancun Science Park, students from overseas universities are allowed to have short-term internships with S2 visas. S2 visas authorize entry for vaguely worded “private affairs.” (State Council regs, art. 6(11)). In particular, according to the Zhongguancun rules, companies that invite foreign higher education students to participate in practical training may file with Beijing public security bureau exit and entry authorities to enable such students to apply with port visa authorities for short-term private affairs visas (annotated “practical training”) in order to enter the country to carry out practical training activities. This local rules opens the door to the possibility that S2 visas may be appropriate for visas in other scenarios as well.

The argument that an internship is permissible may turn on the specific facts. For example, if you undertake an internship for a company abroad, you may have a good argument that you qualify for an M (business) visa to China on an M visa for commercial or trade purposes, where your wages are paid by a foreign company. Or you may be able to come to China on an F visa to volunteer without pay in a community service program.

This topic will remain unsettled until a clear statement of policy is provided by immigration authorities.


16. What are the passport requirements for visa applicants?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires that a visa applicant’s passport be valid for a minimum of 6 months and has blank pages. A minimum of two blank pages are needed for a person applying for a visa abroad who will need to apply for a residence permit in China after entry.

17. Who needs an interview at the Chinese Embassy or other visa issuing agency abroad?

The law states generally that an interview may be required as part of a visa application at a Chinese embassy or other visa issuing agency abroad. (EEAL, art. 18).

The regulations further specify that an interview may be required if:

  1. applying for entry and “residence.” The term residence includes J1, Q1, S1, X1, or Z visas, which require applicants to seek a residence permit within 30 days of entry;
  2. the applicant’s identity and the purpose of entry need to be verified;
  3. the applicant has been refused entry previously, or has been ordered to depart by a specified date; or
  4. there are other circumstances making it necessary to hold an interview.

(State Council regs, art. 8). For some applicants, this requirement represents an additional travel cost.

18. Will visa runs to Hong Kong or a third country be possible?

The statute and State Council regulations are silent on this. As a practical matter, PRC embassies and consulates send mixed messages on this issue. For example:

  • The Hong Kong Office of the Commissioner of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that “Applicants who do not enjoy HK resident status should apply for visas with the Chinese Embassies or Consulates General in their countries of citizenship or residence.” In practice, the Hong Kong Office is not that strict.
  • The PRC Consulate in New York states, “Applicants who reside or travel away from the country of his or her nationality can apply for visas at a local Chinese Embassy or Consulate.” Along the same lines, the PRC Consulate in Los Angeles states, “If you are not applying for the visa in the country of your citizenship, you must provide the original and photocopy of your valid certificates or visa of stay, residence, employment or student status, or other valid certificates of legal staying provided by the relevant authorities of the country where you are currently staying.”

Our firm checks about current local practices before advising an applicant whether to apply in a country where he or she is not a long-term resident. Also, in our experience, the validity of a visa may be shorter for an applicant not applying in a country where he or she is not a citizen.

19. I am currently in China. Can I mail my visa application to a Chinese Embassy abroad?

No. You have to be in the country where you apply for the visa, at least according to the China Visa Application Service Center. Also note that foreign nationals above age 16 must carry their passports with them while in China. (EEAL, art. 38).

20. How should I understand a visa’s validity, number of entries, and duration of stay?

See How to Understand the Validity, Number of entries and Duration of Stay.


21. How early must an application for a visa, stay certificate, or residence permit be filed with the Exit-Entry Administration?

Under the statute, a person applying in China to the Exit-Entry Administration to extend a visa would be required to do so 7 days before the stay period shown on the prior visa expired. (Art. 29). Similarly, to extend one’s residence period, a person should apply 30 days before the prior residence certificate expired. (Art 32).
The statute and regulations are silent as to the consequences of filing late. On Oct. 16, 2013, the Beijing PSB stated that although there is now no penalty for filing late, in the future they may issue visas or residence permits with only limited validity to persons who file late.

The Beijing PSB also stated that filing early will not reduce the duration of stay or validity of the new visa or residence permit, which will be counted from when the prior document expires instead of when the new application is filed.

22. How long will adjudication of a visa, stay certificate, or residence permit application at the Exit-Entry Administration take? Is travel possible while the application is pending?

If an application for a visa extension, replacement, reissuance, or stay certificate is complete and appears to be approvable, the Exit-Entry Administration will issue an acceptance notice with a validity period of not more than 7 work days, and will adjudicate the application within that period. (EEAL, art. 29; State Council regs, arts. 13, 36).

Similarly, if an application for an issuance, extension, replacement, or reissuance of a residence certificate is complete and appears to be approvable, the Exit-Entry Administration will issue an acceptance notice with a validity period no more than 15 work days, and adjudicate the application within that period. (EEAL, art. 30; State Council regs, art. 18, 36). Under prior rules, both visa and residence permit applications were adjudicated within 5 work days. (Ministry of Public Security, Foreigner Visa and Residence Permit Operational Criteria, art. 7, doc. no. 30 [2004], issued Jan. 7, 2004, effective Apr. 1, 2004). Some cities are currently routinely taking the full 15 work days (e.g., Beijing, Shenyang), while others are currently processing residence certificates faster (e.g., 7 work days in Shanghai and Guanzhou).

Longer processing times are probably due to the government’s desire to more thoroughly check applicants’ eligibility, such as completing background checks based on applicants’ fingerprints and contacting companies to confirm employment offers.

The Exit-Entry Administration will retain an applicant’s passport while the application is pending. The acceptance notice will serve as evidence that a person is legally in China. (State Council regs, arts. 13, 18). However, the State Council did not incorporate into the final regulations proposals to these receipts valid for purposes such as domestic travel on trains and airplanes as well as for temporary residence registration at hotels and bank transactions. Clearer guidance is needed. A Beijing PSB officer recently told China Daily, the purposes for which the acceptance receipt can be used are currently under review by multiple government agencies, including transportation agencies. On Oct. 17, 2013, Beijing PSB said orally that if an applicant wants to use the acceptance notice for travel, he or she must specifically request that the notice include a scanned photo.

Nor have there been national guidelines put in place for whether the Exit-Entry Administration should expedite adjudication in the event of an emergency. This could cause some inconvenience to both employers and foreigners. A Beijing PSB officer recently told the press that in “special circumstances,” such as “emergencies,” a passport can be temporarily returned to an applicant while an application is pending at PSB. And Beijing has put into place procedures to expedite cases in urgent situations.

23. What’s the maximum length of stay that may be given on a short-term visa extension?

Short-term visas will be issued initially for a maximum duration of stay of 180 days. (EEAL, art. 34; State Council regs, art. 36(4)).
Then, the cumulative time allotted in extensions of stay should not exceed the originally allotted period of stay as shown on the visa. (EEAL, art. 29).

Local rules provide further specifics.

24. Under what circumstances will a short-term visa be extended?

“Reasonable and sufficient” grounds must exist for extending one’s period of stay. (EEAL, art. 29).

Local rules provide further specifics.

25. Under what circumstances will a change from a short-term visa to a residence permit be permitted within China?

The general rule is that a person with a short-term visa, such as an L (tourism), M (business), or F (non-commercial visit) is not eligible to apply to change status to a residence permit within China. Instead, such a person must depart China to apply for a visa designated for intending residents, such as an X1 (long-term student), Z (work), Q1 (family reunion), or S1 (private affairs). In the past, exceptions have been made in “special situations.” See e.g., Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreign Nationals in China, art. 7; Notice on Curbing Illegal Employment of Foreign Nationals in China.
Under the Exit-Entry Administration Law, persons in China with a short-term visa may apply for a residence permit if they have special talent, are investors, or have humanitarian needs and otherwise conform to State regulations. Application must be made to the exit-entry administration at or above the level of a multi-district city. (Art. 31).

Local policies provide further guidance. For example, under Beijing PSB procedures, to qualify for a residence permit for employment, an applicant who didn’t enter with a Z (work) visa must submit a certification by a Chinese government agency of being a high-level talent or a professional in urgent need in China.


26. How will the new law impact permanent residence applications?

The law specifies that foreigners who have “made outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social development or meet other permanent residence conditions in China” may be granted permanent resident status. (Art. 47). This does not appear to be a significant change (despite China Daily’s claim that the “threshold” has been “lowered”) because under rules approved by the State Council in 2003 persons who have “made great and outstanding contributions and are specially needed by China” are among the categories who may already be granted permanent resident status.
Interestingly, Xinhua News Agency quoted Yang Huanning, vice minister of public security, as saying that the new law will “increase the eligibility quota for green cards.” But no quota is mentioned in either the State Council’s 2003 rules or the new law. Yang may have inadvertently leaked information about confidential internal rules.
The new law also calls on the Ministries of Public Security and Foreign Affairs, as well as other departments under the State Council, to define rules for application and adjudication of permanent residence applications. (Art. 47). The State Council’s 2003 rules have not yet been updated.


27. What’s the requirement for “temporary residence registration” with the local police within 24 hours of arrival?

See China: Foreign Nationals Must Register with the Local Police.

28. Are foreign nationals required to carry their passports with them?

Foreign nationals age 16 or above must carry their personal passports or other international travel certificates, or stay or residence certificates with them and allow inspection by public security organs during their stay and residence in China. (EEAL, art. 35). Violators may be subject to a warning or fine of up to RMB 5000. (EEAL, art. 70).

29. What are the restricted areas where foreign nationals are prohibited from entering, living, and working?

Public security and national security organs may prohibit foreign nationals from entering restricted areas and may prohibit foreign nationals and foreign entities from entering establishing residences or offices in certain locations. (EEAL, art. 44).

To enter the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), a foreign national must apply for a Tibet Travel Permit. Permits are not always granted. Even when travel to Tibet is allowed, usually only Lhasa and part of Shan Nan are open to foreigners. To enter closed areas, an Alien’s Travel Permit (外国人旅行证) issued by the PSB or military permit may be required.

Violators may be subject to a warning, fine, or detention. (EEAL, art. 77). Written records, audio and video materials, electronic data and other articles acquired by foreign nationals illegally shall be confiscated or destroyed, and foreign nationals’ tools shall be confiscated. (Id.)


30. What are the details on the government’s collection of foreigners’ biometric data?

Under the law, applicants for residence certificates “shall” provide biometric data such as fingerprints. (EEAL, art. 30. See also State Council regs, art. 16.). The Beijing PSB stated orally on Oct. 17, 2013, that it doesn’t yet have biometrics equipment in place. The Guangzhou PSB said the same thing on Oct. 25, 2013.

Further, the State Council may approve the Ministries of Public Security and Foreign Affairs’ collection of biometric data from persons leaving or entering the country. (EEAL, art. 7). So far, the State Council hasn’t publicly announced such approval.

31. Should foreigners expect their immigration status will be checked in connection with financial, educational, medical, telecommunications, and other transactions?

An important purpose of the new law was to “strengthen communication and coordination in the control of exit and entry affairs,” including establishing “a uniform exit and entry control information platform to share information among administrative departments” and improving the collection of biometric data. (EEAL arts. 4-5, 7).

The draft State Council regulations specified that police carrying out official business may verify visa and residence status (art. 34) and that employers may verify a foreigner’s identity through the Exit-Entry Administration (art. 43). These requirements were inexplicably dropped in the final regulations.

However, the final regulations do state that “if a finance, education, medical, or telecommunication work unit, etc. in the course of business needs to verify a foreigner’s status, it may apply to the Exit-Entry Administration” (art. 27). It remains to be seen how thoroughly these checks will be carried out and how accurate the results will be.

In addition, in Guangdong Province:

  • No housing may be rented or provided for free to a foreign national without a valid passport and unexpired visa. (Interim Provisions of Guandgong Province on Administration of and Services to Aliens, art. 17).
  • No property management service may provide an entrance card, pass, or parking card to a foreign national without a valid residence certificate (居住证件). (Id., art. 20).
  • No real estate agent may provide services to a foreign national without a valid residence certificate. (Id., art. 22).

32. What whistleblower provisions require reporting on violations of the exit-entry administration regulations?

  • Work units that employ foreign nationals must report relevant information to local exit-entry administration offices. (EEAL, art. 45). Relevant information includes termination of employment, change in the location of employment, that the foreign national has died or gone missing, or violations of the exit-Entry administration regulations. (State Council regs, art. 26).
  • Schools that recruit foreign students must report relevant information to local exit-entry administration offices. (EEAL, art. 45). Relevant information includes that the student has graduated, finished a course, dropped out, has left the school, has died or gone missing, or violated exit-entry administration regulations. (State Council regs, art. 26).
  • If citizens discover the illegal entry, illegal residence, or illegal
    employment of foreigners, they should timely report this to local public
    security organs. (EEAL, art. 45).
  • In Guangdong Province, a hotel must immediately report to the public security bureau if a guest’s passport or visa expires. (Interim Provisions of Guandgong Province on Administration of and Services to Aliens, art. 14).

In Guangdong Province, a whistleblower may be rewarded for reporting illegal entry, illegal residence, or illegal employment of a foreign national to the public security bureau, the human resources and social security department, and/or state security organs as appropriate. (Interim Provisions of Guandgong Province on Administration of and Services to Aliens, art. 10).

33. Will visas and residence certificates issued before the regulations’ September 1 effective date be honored for entry and stay afterwards?

Yes. The general presumption under Chinese law is that regulations do not retroactively void previously granted benefits. (Law on Legislation, art. 84).

34. Can foreign nationals be prohibited from departing China?

A foreign national may not leave the country if he or she, among other things:

1. is subject to a criminal sentence that has not been completed, or is the defendant or suspect in a criminal case (unless the sentenced person is transferred in accordance with the relevant agreements signed between China and another country);
2. is involved in a civil case which has not been closed and the People’s Court has decided that he or she must not leave the country; or
3. has defaulted on the remuneration of labor to workers and the relevant department of the State Council or the people’s government of the province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government has ordered that he or she shall not leave the country.
(EEAL, art. 28. Cf. 1985 Foreigner EEAL, art. 23).

If you know a dispute is imminent or a case has already been filed where you are a party (or where you are not a party but may be seen as responsible), consider avoiding unnecessary travel to China.

The Supreme People’s Court recently issued a list of 31,259 people–including five from overseas–whose departure has been prohibited due to failure to comply with court-ordered payments and other rulings, according to China Daily.

Thanks to attorney LIU Sen for contributions to this article.


  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
  2. Just a quick note on F visas:
    Less than two weeks ago in Chengdu I attempted to help a visiting American student get an extension for their F visa so that they would not have to make an expensive flight across the HK border and back. Unfortunately the hosting University was told by the Chengdu Entry/Exit Bureau that starting in mid-July F visas were no longer capable of receiving extensions.

    According to these new regulations, it seems that in the future short-term visiting scholars/students will no longer be receiving F visas but perhaps X2, is that correct? Would that be true for short-term visiting scholars/students who plan to conduct research?

    If so perhaps the anecdote I provided above is not important as it may only be relevant to academic exchanges and researchers. I am not sure if non-academic F visas would also be prevented from receiving extensions at this time.

    1. Edwin,

      Thanks for checking in. As mentioned above, the new law and regulations don’t specify the maximum number of times that an F or M visa may be extended, or the maximum corresponding duration of stay: only that the initial admission may be for no more than 180 days and the cumulative extensions for not longer than that. Local policies vary. You may find that Chengdu tweaks its local policies again in the coming weeks or months in light of new rules issued from Beijing.

      And what’s the appropriate visa for a short-term student or scholar? X2 certainly fits a short-term student. As for short-term scholars doing other academic activities (research, lecture, etc.), the F visa sounds most likely because it covers “exchanges, visits, inspections, etc.” Finally, in some cases short-term scholars may need to apply for Z visas for work.

      1. Dear Gary,
        There has been a recent phenomenon happening in China schools known as “internship.” Kids come from around the world sporting only a high school diploma and work full time in schools teaching English. They are given an apartment, 2000 rmb a month, usually no medical insurance, and a “F” visa to earn their TEFL certification while they teach full time.
        These kids take away many jobs for professional teachers and save the school a lot of money. Often the internship company will earn additional money every month the students teach. Do parents know that their kids are being taught English by kids not even from an English speaking country?
        It’s illegal to teach in China on a “F” visa, but apparently all you have to do is change the term from “teaching” to “internship” and you have escaped the law and increased profit margins substantially. Poor the student or the parent paying hefty tuition.
        Seems this “internship” racket is becoming extremely popular in China. The question is, is it legal?

        1. Beijingyank,

          This is an area where a clear statement of policy by immigration authorities is needed. As I’ve said in Q.15 above, an X2, F, or M visa does not authorize “work” in China (EEAL, art. 43(1)). Immigratipn authorities would almost certainly see an internship paid by a PRC work unit, especially by an “intern” who is not a full-time student, as unauthorized work. Immigration authorities are aware that so-called internships are often thinly disguised unauthorized work. The ambiguity arises because X2, F, and M visa rules do not explicitly prohibit internships, and the statute doesn’t clearly define what constitutes unauthorized. Employers, interns, and third-party referrers all should be aware of the legal risks of these arrangements.

          1. Thank you, Gary. You have provided a lot of CORRECT information for those people who are studying or even planning to immigrate to China!

  3. Gary. Thanks for all the work you have put into this. Very informative! I have been keeping an eye on all these changes for some time now and am glad to see there has been an overhaul of the system. There is one thing I have noticed though, which is there is little reference to ages! Are Z visas applicant still to be restricted by age?. Similarly do you think the new M visa will have an age stipulation on it to deter it being used as an alternative to a Z1 or Z2?
    Interesting times ahead I think!

    1. Johnnie,

      Age restrictions are found not in the law or State Council regulations but instead in local Labor Bureau rules on applying for employment licenses. They’re based on PRC mandatory retirement ages. The new law doesn’t include a mandate for change on this point, so don’t hold your breath.

      M visas are for business or commercial visits. By definition, this doesn’t involve employment in China, so I wouldn’t expect agencies to regulate visitors’ ages.

      Finally, note that the final regulations don’t divide visas into Z1 and Z2 classifications, as had been proposed in the draft regulations.


  4. Gary,
    Thank you for this comprehensive report. I plan to start a 3-month internship in Beijing, commencement date within the next month (with the possibility of an offer of long-term employment upon completion of the internship). Will I still be able to apply and obtain an F visa now, and ensure its validity over the course of my 3-month internship period (i.e. will an F-visa obtained now be valid even after the new visa regulations are enforced post-September 1)? Also, I am a foreign recent graduate and do not have the work experience I have been told is required for a work visa/resident permit (2 years), therefore if the internship is extended and long-term employment offered, will I be unable to accept this employment? Any help with these questions is greatly appreciated! Thanks.

    1. Dominique,

      You mention that you plan to start your internship in August–before the State Council rules are effective.

      Above, I’ve responded to the question, “Which visa is appropriate to do an internship in China if I have no residence certificate for study?” I mention that when the new rules become effective in September the 6-month internship with an F visa will apparently no longer be permissible.

      Although the State Council regulations don’t address retroactivity issues, still under China’s Legislative Law, the new regulations will not apply retroactively to cancel the validity of a visa. The visa is good for its period of validity.

      Finally, yes it sounds like you will have a problem qualifying for a work-type residence permit in Beijing when your internship is done because you lack the two years of relevant work experience required by the Beijing Labor Bureau for an employment license.

  5. Great Article!
    Will it be possible to work on an S1 visa, instead of a Z visa, if married to a Chinese national?

    1. No. S and Q visa holders (including those who get residence permits for family reunion or private affairs) are not authorized for work, , although they may apply for a Z visa and the associated work-type residence permit if qualified.

  6. Thanks for this Q&A; it’s very informative and helpful.

    I have a two-year multiple entry tourist (L) visa that was issued in New York. This is the visa that is issued to Americans with family in China (my wife is Chinese). I still have over one year of validity on this visa. Do you think I will have any problems entering China with this visa after September 1?

  7. DB,

    Effective September 1, Q2 visas (not L visas) will be issued to the relatives of Chinese citizens and of persons qualified for permanent residence in China who are applying to enter and stay for a short period to visit relatives.

    As I mentioned to Dominique, although the State Council doesn’t address retroactivity issues, I think it’s unlikely that government officials would determine that activities explicitly described in your visa application and for which you were granted a visa are a violation of status after September 1. In other words, your L visa should likely be good for the term of its validity to visit relatives in China.

    I do wish the State Council would have made more explicit its expectations regarding retroactivity of the new regulations.

  8. This is a great post, really clear and informative.

    Whats the difference between these changes and the changes that everyone expected on July 1st? Are the July 1st ones actually law now or were they just for discussion?

    Is there any change to L visas validity or ability to renew them?


    1. Jed,

      The way that the legal system works for China’s central government (without getting into too much detail) is that (1) the National People’s Congress (NPC) enacts a statute, (2) the State Council issues regulations, and then (3) individual ministries like the Ministry of Public Security or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues more detailed rules.

      In this case, the Exit-Entry Law passed by the NPC became effective July 1. The newly announced State Council rules will become effective September 1. And the individual ministries have yet to issue rules.

      For example, the Law says in general that “Ordinary visas … will be issued to aliens who enter China for the purpose of work, study, family visit, tourism, business activities, talent introduction and other purposes besides diplomatic or public affairs. Type and issuing methods of ordinary visa shall be stipulated by the State Council.” (Art. 16) The new State Council regulations list each visa type, explains its purpose, and explains what documentation is necessary to apply. (Arts. 6-7).

  9. Dear Gary,

    Thank you for your excellent posting, much appreciated.

    I am from Europe and in March of this year in my home country Chinese Embassy I was issued with a Multiple Entry F Visa, 90 day stay per entry, valid until June 2015 … (it is my 5th. 2 year visa to be granted).
    In your opinion will the Chinese Authorities honour my visa until June 2015.?



    1. Tonera,

      Wow. Retroactivity is a popular question. See my above answers to Dominique and DB.

  10. You mention above that “a non-employment-type residence certificate may be issued valid for 180 days to five years.” What is a non-employment type residence certificate?

    1. Aylin,

      The regulations state that there are the following categories of residence certificates: work, study, journalists, family reunion, private affairs. (Art 15).

      The statute says that non-employment-type residence certificates may be issued valid for 180 days to 5 years. (Art. 30). It appears to me this covers certificates for study, family reunion, and private affairs.

      1. Hi, I would like to know what the conditions are to get a five year Q1 visa. I have been in China for more than 6 years, and have been married for six years as well. Thus far I have always obtained one year L visa, but will apply for a Q1 next time. How can I get a five year Q1 visa?

        1. Roland:

          Just to clarify–under Chinese law, there’s an important difference between a “visa” and a “residence permit.” See the Q&A above, entitled “What’s the difference?”

          A Q1 visa is valid for just one entry. The visa holder must apply to the Public Security Bureau for a residence permit for family reunion within 30 days of entering China.

          The new law states that residence permits for family reunion can be issued by the PSB for a stay of 180 days to 5 years.

          So I think your real question is, “how long will my residence permit for family reunion be valid?”

          The Ministry of Public Security has not yet issued nationwide rules implementing the new law. In the interim, cities have created provisional policies.

          For example, under Beijing’s provisional policy, “Those who are under 18 or over 60 can apply for a residence permit with validity of no longer than 3 years (for those who are under 18, the expiration date can’t exceed their 18th birthday). The others can apply for a residence permit with validity of no longer than 1 year and no shorter than 180 days.”

  11. Very concise, thank you.

    Small question, I run a small company in HK. I would like to move to china to expand my business, with an eye on the export market. We already focus on exports.

    Is there a business visa / setting up company visa I could apply for? Would I qualify under new R visas? Prefer to live and ‘work’ legally vs doing visa runs / commuting from HK.

    Many thanks.

  12. For an entrepreneur with a startup in China, the most common pattern is to enter to do investigation, business formation, and preliminary organization for the company with a business visa (now the M or perhaps F visa).

    Once the company has been legally formed–usually as a wholly foreign owned enterprise (WFOE) or representative office (RO), then it’s possible to apply for a Z work visa and the related residence permit for work.

    You’ll have to wait for publication of R visa rules to see if that visa may be an option for you.

  13. Great article!

    I’ve married to a Chinese citizen and we are planning to live in China. How can i apply for a residence permit and with which visa type should i come to china?

    If based on the article I get a Q1, then do I need to go to the process of a residence permit? And with that permit, can I work in China, or I need to sit at home?

    1. Dennis,

      Yes, you’ll be able to apply for a Q1 visa and then a residence permit for family reunion. And “work in China without obtaining an employment license or work-type residence permit” is illegal. (EEAL, art. 43(1)). So, if you want to work, you can then find a work unit to sponsor you for a work-type residence permit.

      1. (a) Is the transition from spouse-visa to work permit simple?
        (b) Could you face deportation if you got caught working on a spouse visa?

        thx for a great article

  14. Great post ! I am currently in China (Guangzhou) on tourist visa (Multiple Entry 90 days). I work mostly around Asia on freelance and contracts but I do not work in China. I am living here because my wife is from here and has a stable job.We also have a 2 year old daughter living in China with us also. Do you think I can get my tourist visa extended or even get a new one now with these rules. I would need a multiple entry visa again as I come and go from China quite alot.Hong Kong is my nearest city for visa run. Cheers

    1. Phil,

      You say your wife is from China. If she is a PRC citizen residing in China, you may qualify for a Q1 visa and then a residence permit for family reunion. Once that is issued, probably valid for one year (if you get the required medical exam), you can enter, stay, and leave whenever you like during the validity of the residence permit. You wouldn’t be authorized to work in China. Hope that’s clear.

  15. I’ve bookmarked this informative blog. Thank you.

    I had planned to live temporarily in China next year. But I’m not interested in working there – at least not initially, until I’ve had time to explore options and opportunities from the inside. (I have the means to support myself.) The F-visa would have been ideal, considering I don’t want to work while I get the “lay of the land”. But the F-visa (for 6 months, say) is apparently impossible to get nowadays.

    1. Daniel,

      If you’re not interested in working in China, you can cross off your list the Z (work) visa.

      Consider coming on an F, L, or M depending on what activities you prefer to do.

  16. Hi everybody. I’m in Shanghai with a F visa expiring in 20 days and I was collecting the documents with my company to apply for a 1 month extension (I need more time to collect the docs I need to later apply for a Z visa).

    Apparently, as Edwin pointed out for Chengdu, also in Shanghai the exit-entry administration bureau is no longer willing to give extensions to F visa.
    Anyways, it’s incredible they don’t say anything about the possibility to run visas from Hk or third countries… what everybody’s asking!! lol

    1. We’re you successful with your extension? I am on an F visa due to expire shortly and I need to extend in shanghai to finish my work, any advice?

  17. Hi,
    the article is very informative yet i have one question. I am a student on X-Visa and my family is accompanying me with L-Visa which will expire in August 30th. So according to new rules my family will get S1 visa as my study duration is greater than 1 year. But in order to get S1 i am not sure if my family needs to go out of China and then get S1 visa and return to China, if anyone has information it will be helpful. Thanking in anticipation.

    1. Ejaz,

      Interesting that your relatives L visas expire Aug. 30, which is just before the new law takes effect Sept. 1. You’ll need to have your lawyer check with the local PSB Exit-Entry Bureau about whether they intend to apply the old regulations (effective on the day your family members file) or the new regulations (perhaps effective on the day the applications are adjudicated).

      Also see below my related answer to Hussain’s question.

  18. Dear Gary,

    I am a foreign student, having temporary resident permit for 3 years. My family is staying with me on “L” Visa. My query is that whether their visas are transfereable to S1 visa or they will have to leave China and re-enter again with new visas. What is the validity of these visas? Regards

    1. Hussain: If I correctly understand your question, you want to know whether, when your family’s current L visas expire (sometime after Sept. 1), they’ll be able to apply to the PSB Exit-Entry Bureau for “residence certificates for private affairs” (as opposed to leaving the country to apply for new visas) and what the validity of these certificates will be.

      The PRC government’s default position is that person who entered China without a visa intended for residing in China will need to go abroad to apply for the appropriate visa before applying for a residence permit. Exceptions apply for persons with “special talent,” investors, and persons with humanitarian needs. (EEAL, art. 32). The statute just sets forth a general framework, so you’ll need to check with your local PSB for more local rules.

      Once your family member’s residence permit for private affairs is approved, it may be issued valid for 180 days to five years (EEAL, art. 30), but they won’t be issued past the expiration of your own residence certificate. Local PSB policies may provide further specificity.

  19. Thank you so much for the great summary.

    1. I heard rumors that the new M visa will not be a multiple entry visa anymore. Is there any hard evidence for this? If the M visa is still available as a 6 months visa with 30 days each stay then it is not much of a change to how it was practically handled in most Chinese consulates in the West.

    2. There is another question I have been pondering for a long time and might become even more relevant with the new rules: As I am married to a Chinese women I could get a Q1 visa (then a residence certificate for family reunion). As I own businesses who do business in China (through a WFOE) and I am often attending meetings for them I felt that a business visa is more appropriate. Note that I am not employed by the foreign holding companies or the WFOEs. Would a family visa allow such an activity or not?

    1. Karl,

      1. M visas can be issued for 1,2, or M entries; for a maximum duration of stay of 180 days; and for a validity of up to 24 months. Having a good track record helps persuade an officer to favorably exercise his or her discretion for better visa terms, as does having an invitation from a company with a good track record or from a “duly authorized unit” of the government.

      2. I’ve seen no guidance on whether a non-work residence permit holder can conduct business in China. I suspect the answer is yes, but remember that the line between legitimate “business” and unauthorized “work” can be blurry.

  20. Dear Gary,

    Thanks so much for all the info. I do have a question about my L-spouse visa.

    My one-year residence permit (issued based on my marriage to a Chinese citizen), issued in Beijing, will expire February 2014. With all the visa changes, I wonder if I will be able to renew it for another year or only 180 days. And can I do that in Beijing, or will I need to do that at the PRC Consulate in my home country? I’ve been married with my Chinese wife for 16 years and never had any problems renewing my visa but I’m confused and worried about the coming changes. Any update will be much appreciated!


    1. Ronald,

      You ask, what will the validity of your next residence permit for family be? As mentioned above residence certificate issued for other than work may be valid for 180 days to five years. (EEAL, art. 30).

      Under the Beijing Provisional Procedures, 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. https://lawandborder.com/beijing-provisional-procedures-visas-stay-permits-residence-permits/.

      It’s possible to apply directly to PSB for a residence permit extension without leaving China. (State Council regs., art 17).

  21. I’ve been married to a Chinese national for 3 years, and we have a son born in China who holds a Swedish passport. I have an L visa valid for 1 year for multiple entries and 90 days stay each time. I renew it once a year in Sweden. Our son has an L visa too, valid for 120 days each stay.

    As I work at sea, 8 weeks onboard/8 weeks vacation, so I have no problem with the 90 days stay but wish my son had a longer stay.

    Our local PSB refuses to extend or change the visa for us due to a dispute when our son was born. Is there any other way to renew, change, or extend our visas in China, or is it only at the PSB where my wife has her family registration book (hukouben)?

    Thank you in advance and best regards,

    1. The key issue here may be the “dispute” when your son was born. Tell me more about this. Also, since he was born in China and has one PRC citizen parent, he was born a PRC citizen. See Nationality Law, art. 4. Has he gone through the procedures to renounce his PRC citizenship?

      1. Gary, Under Swedish law, our son is automatically a Swedish citizen and can only enter Sweden with a Swedish passport, so we got him one. The “dispute” started when we applied for a PRC entry/exit permit for our son. PSB said that since he is born in China to one Chinese parent he’s a Chinese citizen so they wouldn’t issue him the entry/exit permit.

        The Swedish embassy called the PSB to explain, but they did not listen. The Embassy then contacted Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Peoples Republic of China in Beijing, who issued a letter stating that our son is Swedish and that our local PSB must issue the permit. Once that paper landed in the hands of our local PSB they issued the permit but the relationship between them and us is frosty because we went over their head.

        We are living in a very small city were I am the only foreigner and our son was the first mixed baby ever to be born. Perhaps they did not know procedures very well. But now when we want to extend or renew the visas they refuse to help. The PSB never mentioned renouncing PRC citizenship as he never was registered as Chinese national.

        So our thoughts are to move to a bigger city were they have experience of foreigners and were we can get the visas most foreigners in similar situation can get. Is it possible, if my wife has a resident permit in Shanghai or Beijing, to apply at PSB there for new visa or is it still where the Hukou is registered?

        Best regards,

        1. Kalle,

          The local PSB was right that your son, born in China to one PRC citizen parent, is a Chinese citizen. See Nationality Law, art. 4. Also, according to this Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, a Chinese citizen can’t forfeit citizenship automatically unless he or she is both settled abroad and voluntarily naturalizes or otherwise acquires foreign citizenship. So if you want China to recognize your son as a foreign citizen, you’ll need to go through renunciation procedures since he wasn’t settled abroad at the time Sweden recognized him as a citizen.

          Until then, the PSB will only be willing to issue an exit and entry permit (出入境通行证) to your child.

          1. Dear Gary, Thank you again for your answer. I just have one more question. If we move to Shanghai or Beijing and my wife get a temporary residence permit in one of those cities but still has her Hukou in the home province, can we renew visas where she has the residence permit i.e Beijing/Shanghai, or must it still be done where the Hukou book is registered?

  22. Any suggestions for a person married to a Chinese national who is interested in a short term study program?
    Would it be wiser to change the visa to a student visa or keep it as a family reunion permit?

  23. I have been working in China for over 3 years on Z visa. My next assignment is outside of Mainland, after which I plan to come back to work in China. In the meantime however I will turn 60. I am an experienced senior engineer with management experience. Does upper age limit of 60 still apply after July 2013 ? If not is there a way around?

    Many thanks in advance.

  24. Hi Gary,

    I have an F (business) visa valid for multiple entries over two years, issued in the UK in April. Will this still be valid for the entire two years, despite the change in law?

    The visa on its face says it’s valid for a stay of 180 days. Is this 180 continuous days without exiting to another country or region such as Hong Kong, or is this a maximum 180 days per years irrelevant of how may times you have been out of China?

    In short I will be working 100% as a project manager for a UK company who has multiple suppliers in China. Due to volume of work the UK company are look for me to live pretty much full time in China returning to the UK maybe every 3-4 months for periods of just 1-2 weeks.

    1. Ben,

      a. As mentioned above, visas issued before the regulations’ September 1 effective date should be honored for entry and stay afterwards because the general presumption under Chinese law is that regulations do not retroactively void previously granted benefits. (Law on Legislation, art. 84).

      b. I understand that your F visa, on its face, states that it is valid for 180-days stay. This is the maximum single stay in China (without seeking an extension), not the maximum days you may be here per year.

      c. You mention that you’ll be “working … pretty much full time” in China for a UK company with the F visa. You and your company may want to consider from a couple perspectives whether this is the best arrangement. Not knowing all the facts, I can only suggest further avenues of inquiry. First, from the immigration law perspective, this may be considered unauthorized work. As explained above, it’s considered “work” in China if you are laboring in China for 3 months or more, even if you have a foreign labor contract and a foreign source of compensation. So you and your employer may be subject to penalties related to unauthorized employment if you don’t secure a work visa. Second, I’m no tax expert, but it’s possible that under this arrangement you are required to pay individual income tax (IIT) in China, your employer is required to withhold that tax, and your employer will create a “permanent establishment” in China subjecting it to enterprise tax and business tax.

  25. Can anyone answer me this: why does China require Z visa applicants to apply in their country of origin?

    1. Simon,

      I’m struck that the 1994 “Notice on Curbing Illegal Employment of Foreign Nationals in China” by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Public Security (MPS), and Labor (ML) emphasizes this point: “If another kind of visa is held, and it’s necessary to be permanently stationed in China, then in principle, the practice is that they need to exit and acquire the work visa and then re-enter China.” https://lawandborder.com/notice-curbing-illegal-employment-foreign-nationals-china-ministries-public-security-labor-foreign-affairs/.

      I think that the government sees the visa application requirement as helping to curb illegal employment in a couple ways.

      First, it gives the MFA an opportunity to evaluate and adjudicate the issue of whether a particular foreign national should be allowed to work in China. Their extra set of eyes–distinct from MPS and ML–looks at the issue from a foreign affairs perspective. Given what MFA knows about the foreign country, does this person seem likely to really be a doctor or engineer, to not be a terrorist, etc?

      Second, the work visa application requirement reduces the incentive for an applicant who intends to come to China to work to hide his or her true purpose when applying for a tourist or business visa application. Those applications are then, presumably, more likely to have a sound basis.

  26. A close friend is currently on an F visa in Beijing finishing a 3-month unpaid internship at a company. He helped me interview and receive the same unpaid internship to start from January 2014. Now that the F visa is no longer explicitly for “internships,” what options do I have to legally work in China? You wrote above that it’s possible F and M visas won’t be issued for internships. Also, for an X2 visa I would need to be enrolled in a school, but I don’t know if I would be given permission to perform the internship. And for a Z visa I’d need two years of post-graduate experience. I feel really stuck. Would any of the new visa types fit my situation?

    1. Anthony: Yes, further government guidance will be necessary to know whether F or M or X2 visas will be issued for unpaid internships. (Or, in the absence of guidance, experience gained through trial and error as applicants seek such visas after the new law becomes effective Sept. 1). Note that such visas do not authorize work, so presumably a paid internship will not be possible. Or you could get a residence permit for long-term study, which then may allow you to get authorization for part-time work or an internship. That may be an option for you to consider if you lack the two years of post-bachelor’s work experience required to get an employment license for a Z work visa in Beijing.

      1. HI Gary- Just wondering if you are aware of any updates but my understanding is that some US universities have cancelled their “internship only” summer programs in China due to the changes and uncertainty with the visa situation. It does seem that programs like unpaid internships will need to be organized through a Chinese university in the future. Any new details on this? Thanks Sean

        1. Sean: No, I’m not aware of any policy announcements by the government impacting the above FAQ on “Which visa is appropriate to do an internship in China if I have no residence certificate for study?”

  27. Dear Gary,

    I’m a PhD student in Beijing with a residence permit valid through 2016. My wife and two sons are here with me. They have L visas that they need to renew extend every 3 months at the Exit-Entry Bureau (EEB). What rights will they have under the new law and regulations?

    1. Anwar,

      The new law and regulations allow EEB to issue residence permits to a student’s family members already present in China. This is an important improvement over the previous law, which just allowed L visas valid for a 3-month stay, because it promotes family unity.

  28. Would it be possible for a person to be hired by a company in HK (and obtain the necessary work permits for HK as well) and then be continuously contracted to work in China for a period of 1-2 years? My vague understanding is that if the Mainland Chinese company and the HK company have prior business relations, sending a worker from HK to China would fall under the category of the M visa, correct? If a worker has a valid residence and employment papers in HK, could he then continuously make visa trips from China to HK to get the M visa renewed?

    This scenario seems very similar to how some people work illegally on L visas, except in this case there are two legitimate companies involved–does that make it legal?

    1. Tom: As mentioned above, the National People’s Congress’ overriding policy in enacting the law was to more harshly punish foreigners who illegally enter, live, or work in China. Work in China without obtaining an employment license and work-type residence permit is illegal.

      Under the Labor Contract Law, a person can count as “employed” in China even without a contract if there is in fact a labor relationship. In particular, under the Labor Department order mentioned above, a foreigner with a foreign labor contract and foreign source of remuneration will count as “working” in China if engaged in work-like activities for 3 months or more (not including foreign engineers and technicians and experts implementing a technology transfer agreement).

      The new Exit-Entry Administration Law was written to discourage the use of not just L (tourist) visas but also F (business) visas–now called M (business and commercial) visas–for working in China.

      If you’re risk averse, you may want to either look into applying for a work visa or re-calibrating your activities in China to fit within the business and commercial activities allowed with an M visa.

  29. I’ve been a PhD student at Tsinghua University since August 2012. My residence permit is valid til September 2014. My wife and children came here on September 21, 2012 on L-visa with 60 days validity. After this I kept on renewing my family visa through my university after every 3 months. But this time, although my university issued me letter to get my family’s L-visas through November 19, but the PSB officer said to me, your family can not live in china more than 1 year, and he crossed out November 19th, and instead wrote in September 20. He ask me to sign the change. When I ask the visa officer, he said “your family should go back and re-enter china with a new visa.” Can you help me in this regard?

    1. Sarwar,

      Here’s my best guess as to the “1-year rule” that the PSB officer mentioned to you. Under the new law, effective July 1, the maximum stay that can be granted on a short-term visa is 180 days. (EEAL, art. 34; State Council regs, art. 36(4)). Also, the cumulative time allotted in extensions of stay should not exceed the originally allotted period of stay as shown on the visa. (EEAL, art. 30). So, the maximum initial period of stay plus extensions is 360 days (roughly 1 year).

      As I mentioned to Anwar, under the new law, instead of applying for “visas,” effective September 1 the family members of a student can apply for “residence permits for private affairs. (State Council regs, art. 16). These certificates may be issued in increments of 180 days to five years. (EEAL, art. 30). This is an important improvement over the previous law because it promotes family unity.

      The question remains as to whether your relatives need to go abroad to apply for S1 visas before applying to PSB or residence permits or can, with their current L-1 visas, apply for residence permits. The Beijing Provisional Procedures (https://lawandborder.com/beijing-provisional-procedures-visas-stay-permits-residence-permits/) as written don’t answer this question. However, PSB stated orally on Oct. 17, 2013, that if the applicant did not enter with an S1 visa, then either the relative with the residence permit must submit a certification by a Chinese government agency of being a high-level talent or a professional in urgent need in China or the applicant must go abroad to get the S1 visa.

  30. Do I need to apply for the Z visa in my home country?

    I have been working in China for the past year and a half. I’m about to finish employment with one company and leave to travel for 3 months. After that, I plan to begin employment with a new company in China.

    I am a UK citizen. Instead of applying for the Z visa in the UK, can I do it in India, where I will be traveling? How about Hong Kong?

    1. Natalie,

      Right now, there’s some upheaval in China visa law and policy, given the new statute and regulations. Some PRC embassies and consulates are less willing then in the past to issue Z visas to third country nationals. This includes the Hong Kong Office of the Commissioner of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

      Generally you should apply at the PRC embassy or consulate named on your Visa Notification Letter (通知签证函) issued by the duly authorized agency (被授权单位). And some duly authorized agencies are only issuing letters naming the PRC embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country.

      So you’re adding some level of risk in applying for the visa in a third country. In analyzing that risk and deciding if you want to assume it, you may want to talk with the PRC embassy or consulate in the third country to gain a sense of their current policy. That’s what we do for our clients.

  31. I have been living in China since early 2010, and prior to that time I made 7 different trips to China. I worked a teacher in many different Provinces at both the university Level and also in the private sector. My age, almost 70, prohibits me from working now. I am a single man and totally self-sufficient–I own a car and my own furniture, etc. For the last 3+ years I have had an F Visa. However I’ve now been told that it’s not possible to get a new one. My current visa expires in October. What can I do?

    1. James: Some countries–like Australia, Thailand, and Indonesia–have retirement visas. The requirements differ, but they usually require either that the applicant be financially self-sufficient without the need to work or that they make a substantial investment in the country. China’s policy makers have not created a visa specifically to attract retirees. As a result, a retiree needs to shoehorn into one of the existing visa classifications. A work visa is generally not a good option because most applicants don’t want to work and/or are ineligible for work visas due to the country’s mandatory retirement age. Some retirees may qualify for student visas or for family reunion visas. Others may qualify for permanent residence based on their outstanding contributions to China or substantial investments in China. You may want to speak with a lawyer to see if any other visa category is right for you.

      Please note that there is an exception for retirees who are ethnically Chinese. First, Those over age 60 who have purchased a home in China and have proof of their financial resources may be eligible for a residence permit for private affairs. Second, a person over age 60 with no direct relatives overseas who is sponsored by direct relatives in China may be granted permanent residence here if he or she has stayed in China at least 9 months of each of the 5 prior years and has a home and proof of financial resources in China.

  32. I am a mechanical engineer from Denmark, (60 yrs old) I am now in China on an F visa and moonlighting for an HK based company with a manufacturing company in China. They have applied for a Work Permit for me. I already did the medical etc. Today they told me I need to leave China immediately and return to Denmark and await the outcome of my Work Permit application. Is this accurate information or are they trying to stall me? My understanding, to the contrary, was that if I am granted the Work Permit in China I would then take it with me to Denmark and THEN apply at my Copenhagen China Embassy for an Z visa to return to China. My China company has absolutely no experience in applying for Work Permits/Z Visa’s. Where can I find the relevant rules and regulations?

    1. Justin,

      Let’s start with the easiest part of your question–where are the rules and regulations?

      1. The law (effective July 1, 2013) is here: Exit-Entry Administration Law.
      2. The State Council regulations (effective Sept. 1, 2013) are here: PRC Regulations on Exit-Entry Administration for Foreign Nationals.
      3. The key 1996 rules issued jointly by the Ministry of Labor and other agencies are here: Rules for the Administration of Employment of Foreign Nationals in China. Those rules have already been rendered partially ineffective by the new law and regulations. A new set of rules is expected, perhaps soon.
      4. The above national law, regulations, and rules are merely a framework. Localities can make and enforce their own rules within that framework.

      As to the steps in your case, in general a foreign national needs an employment license (就业许可) and a visa notification letter (通知签证函) before applying for a Z visa. The MInistry of Labor’s rules say that at articles 5 to 15.

      Note: the employment license (就业许可) is different than the work permit (就业证) that your employer will need to apply for after you enter with the Z visa. See articles 16 to 17.

      As to why your employer is asking you to leave China, I could only speculate. Perhaps the employer is nervous that they or you may be subject to penalties for employing you in China without a work permit and residence permit.

      Also, note that in some cities and under certain circumstances the employer will have problems obtaining an employment license from the Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security for a foreign national age 60 because that’s that’s the mandatory retirement age for men.

      Maybe you and your company need good legal advice (or if your interests diverge, you need your own independent legal advice).

      1. Dear Gary,

        Sincere thanks for your reply, I will seek further information and revert to you either via this blog or directly.

        Yours truly,


  33. My Company has established a representative office (RO) in Ningbo. I am the Chief Representative. I have a Registration Certificate , Alien Employment Permit, etc., and a Residence Permit valid 05 Aug 2013 to 29 July 2014. Now, on 16 Aug 2013 I applied at the Foreign Affairs Office for a Confirmation Letter Of Invitation for Z visas for my wife and my 14 year-old-daughter. Two days later, the authorities asked how many employees I have in office and said they want to visit the office. Is this normal? Could they reject my application?

    1. Farukh: Since your wife and daughter seek visas as your dependents, they only qualify if you are in valid status. So it’s not out of the questionk for them to investigate whether your status is valid.

    1. Steve,

      “Short term means staying in China for fewer than or equal to 180 days.” In contrast, “Long term or residence means residing in China for more than 180 days.” (State Council regs, art. 36).

  34. I have a Z visa and a residence permit valid through September 18 (not too long before the October 1 holiday). If I were to apply for an F visa, would it be best to apply to the PSB Exit-Entry Division (with a foreign expert’s certificate cancellation letter in hand) or apply at a Chinese consulate abroad.

    Also, do you need a residence permit for an F visa?

  35. Hi Gary, I travel to China all the time for short business trips. In the past, there was a requirement to register my residence with the local public security office — hotels will take care of this for me, but when I stay with a friend, then I’m supposed to do it myself. It looks like the old rules have been repealed, and I don’t see any registration requirement in the new regulations. Does this mean I no longer need to register? (yay!)

    1. Hi Gary, thank you for an informative and accessible resource!

      One quick question—
      I entered visa on an X (student) visa issued in August 2013 for a course of study of less than 180 days. The visa was valid for 1 entry before November, duration of each stay “000 days.”

      On September 3rd when I tried to get my physical done, because my length of study is less than 180 days, I was unable to have the examination and was told that my X visa would be converted to an X2 visa at a later date (arranged by FUDAN school).

      However, nowhere have I been able to find the entries/re-entry regulations for an X2 visa.

      Once I have my X converted to an X2 (how and with what documentation, I don’t know— also waiting on word from the school) what privileges am I afforded (besides my knowing that work is off limits)….

      1. Teddy:

        Prior to Sept. 1, students coming to China for a program lasting 6 months or more obtained X visas at the PRC consulate and then needed to get a medical exam and apply for a residence permit within 30 days. (Their visas show that the duration of each stay is “000” days). In contrast, students coming for under 6 months applied for F visas and didn’t need the medical exam in China or the residence permit application. After Sept. 1, those longer-term students get X1 visas and shorter-term students get X2 visas.

        So, I’m mystified why–before the new regulations took effect on Sept. 1–you were issued an X visa, rather than an F visa, for a course of study for under 6 months. On the face of the visa, it looks like it’s for someone coming for a 6-month-plus course of study who needs to apply for a residence permit within 30 days of entry. So I recommend that you try to sort this out within 30 days of entry. If the visa was issued in error, then PSB should be able to issue to you a replacement visa.

        Let me know what happens.

    1. A Q1 visa is single entry, valid for a 30-day stay. The purpose of the visa is to enter China to apply for a residence permit for family reunion, which can then be used for multiple entries to China during its validity.

      A Q2 visa is for short-term trips to China. It can be issued for 1, 2, or multiple entries at the consular officer’s discretion.

  36. Hello Gary,

    I’m Chinese, and my husband is Nigerian. His latest visa expires Oct. 30.
    1. Where should we apply? In the past, we’ve tried to extend the visa in the city where we live, but were told to go to my birth place instead.
    2. Is the new visa classification we need a Q1 (family reunion)?
    3. When should we apply for the visa extension?

    God bless you.

    1. Wendy, first check and see if the stamp in your husband’s passport is a visa (签证) or residence permit (居留留许可).

      1. Under the new rules, (a) if your husband has a visa, he should apply to the PSB where he is “staying” (停留). (State Council regs, art. 10); or (b) if he has a residence permit, she should apply to the PSB where he is “residing” (居留). (State Council regs, art. 16.). The latest national guidance about what it means to “reside” in a place was the 2004 Operational Criteria for for Foreigners’ Visas and Residence Permits were slightly different. They required proof of the PRC citizen relative’s “local” long-term residence or actual domicile (须提供亲属本地常住户籍证明或者实际居住地的相关证明). So applying where the PRC citizen has a hukou or temporary residence permit (暂住证) was OK under those Criteria. Those Criteria have not yet been updated to reflect the new law and regulations. In the meantime, recent Beijing rules allow a person to apply for the residence permit for family reunion if the PRC citizen’s hukou or temporary residence permit is issued in Beijing and the citizen has resided in Beijing for over 6 months.

      2. If you’re applying to PSB for a short-term stay (not exceeding 180 days), that’s a Q2 visa. If you’re applying for residence, that’s a residence permit for family reunion (团聚类居留证件).

      3. If you’ll be applying without a lawyer (or agent), I recommend that you inquire with the PSB soon to confirm eligibility. The rules say that to extend a stay period as shown on a visa, apply 7 days before the current stay visa expires. (EEAL, art. 29). To extend the residence period shown on a residence permit, apply 30 days before the current residence permit expires. (EEAL, art. 32).

  37. Dear Gary,

    I entered China with a L visa on Aug. 28th and yesterday I just applied for a residence permit based on my marriage with a Chinese citizen in Europe. I submitted my accommodation registration, current passport, her hukou and ID card, physical examination record, and our marriage certificate. The question is, should we have gone to the police to update her hukou? The public security bureau didn’t ask us for that. They also gave me an acceptance notice saying I should pick up my passport in 2 weeks. (I need my passport to leave the country on the 24th).

    1. Sam: A person’s hukou should be updated when its’ contents (including the listed marital status) change. That’s according to the Regulations on Household Registration, art. 17, which was enacted by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in 1958 and is still in effect. (There are also local hukou regulations on point.) However, as to residence permit applications, the statute, regulations, and 2004 Ministry of Public Security “Foreigner Visa and Residence Permit Operational Criteria” are all silent on whether the hukou needs to be submitted to the public security bureau (PSB), much less whether it needs to be up-to-date.

      The positive news for you is that the State Council’s new exit-entry regulations, art. 18, say that PSB should only accept a residence permit application (and issue an acceptance receipt) if the application meets applicable requirements. Otherwise, the PSB should notify the applicant as to the the correct documents needed. So while acceptance is no guarantee of approval, at least the officer who received your application thought that the documents were sufficient.

  38. Hello Gary,

    Great service that you are providing.

    Is it just me? I don’t understand the difference between an F Visa and an M Visa.

    Many thanks,


  39. Hi,

    I am studying at Tsinghua for one semester. I hold an F Visa, valid for 180 days. It is a single entry visa. I want to fly back to Germany as I have an important job interview. Last year, it was no problem to get another entry. A lot of other students have traveled too. Today, the Uni refused to give me another entry. They said that the regulations changed and it is not possible for me to leave the country and come back during the semester. Do you know whether that is true? Can I do anything about it, such as ask for permission at an embassy or something?

    1. The new statute, State Council regulations, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs notice do not address whether short-term students may leave and re-enter China. So the university’s reference to new “regulations” doesn’t make sense to me. However, under existing Ministry of Education rules, you need the university’s permission to leave and re-enter. I suggest you request a copy of the new policy the university is referring to so you can get a clearer handle on what you’re being told. (Feel free to share here in the event you get anything).

  40. I am a musician here in China. I have a Z visa valid until Feb. 2014. Do I need to change it from Z to R visa? Or will I have any problem renewing the Z visa in Feb. 2014?

  41. Joven,

    The government has still not published rules on the R (talent) visa, so it’s not yet clear which categories of foreign nationals who under current rules apply for Z (work) visas will in the future need to apply instead for R visas.

  42. Hello, I am married to a Chinese woman. l came to China in 2008 and my last entry was Dec. 2010. Since then I have not gone out from China.
    Am I eligible for a 5-year residence permit or permanent residence? A friend was told by the PSB in Shenzhen that you must own a house or company to qualify for a 5-year residence permit. I am having sleepless nights thinking about this.

    1. KK,

      Based on your marriage to a PRC citizen, you may qualify for a residence permit for family reunion. But it may well not be valid for 5 years. It’s true that the Exit-Entry Administration Law allows issuance of residence permits for up to 5 years, but that doesn’t mean that PSB will issue them for that long. The Ministry of Public Security hasn’t yet issued any nationwide guidance on the validity of residence permits for family reunion. In the meantime, local PSBs are creating their own policies. For example, according to Beijing’s provisional rules, for a spouse over age 60, the permit will be valid for not longer than 3 years; for a spouse under age 60, from 180 days to 1 year.

      The basic requirements for applying for permanent residence on the basis for marriage to a PRC citizen are that you be healthy and have no criminal record, that you have been married for at least 5 years, with at least 5 successive years of residence in China (9 months of residence in China each year), and have a stable source of subsistence and a home.

  43. Finding your site to be very interesting and informative. Here’s my experience in Guangzhou. I am married to a Chinese national, and living in China. I initially stayed here for 3 years. We then went back to my country for 7 months and recently came back to the new system.

    I found there to be way less hassle, they have streamlined the system in the building itself especially with the computerised system they use for the past year or so, I offered our rental contract and various documents, but my bank account was not needed. I applied for the Q2 purely because I had a day left on my temp L visa. I applied for the max, i.e. 180 days, I collected my visa today and to my surprise they gave me a year with a 180 day stipulation to go to Hong Kong. (Lets call that a small holiday). The process was smooth. Unless I read my visa wrong, it sure does state that the visa is valid for a year (through 26 September 2014). Anyway, this has been my experience. Hope it can allay some anxiety of some would be visitors however each case is different i guess.

    Now the only bad thing about us living here is that I’m not authorized to work. Thanks again for an informative site.

  44. I’m a student here, and I invited my wife to come. She obtained an L visa, valid for a maximum stay of 30 days. Upon arrival, I did all the necessary things (e.g., police registration). Four days before her visa expired, I applied for an extension and it was refused, giving no reason and I was told to let her leave the country. I later got her an admission into one the universities to study Chinese and she was granted. After getting the admission we applied for a change of visa from L to X at the PSB exit and entry division and our applications were accepted. She wasn’t asked to pick her passport within the normal 5 working days but was given 1 month and she will pick up her passport on 15 October. She’s now going to be given a 6-months residence permit. Can I apply for an S1 residence permit for her at PSB when her 6 months permit is about to expire?

    1. Reindorf,

      Not sure I’ve got enough info to understand your situation. It depends whether you were admitted to university as a long-term or short-term student. As a long-term student, PSB may issue you a residence permit for study; as a short-term student, PSB may issue you an X2 visa. This is key for determining your wife’s rights:

      • If you have a residence permit for study, your wife may be granted a residence permit for private affairs, which is issued to spouses and certain other relatives of foreign nationals holding residence permits for employment, study, etc. It can be granted for the same period of validity as your residence permit. (As a matter of terminology, a person planning to obtain a residence permit for private affairs from PSB may apply for an S1 visa to enter China for that purpose, but there is no such thing as an “S1 residence permit”).
      • In contrast, if you have an X2 visa, you don’t qualify for a residence permit; nor does your wife qualify for one on the basis of your relationship.
  45. Hi Gary,

    I’m interested in getting an F or M visa for a 3-month unpaid internship starting in November. Reading your article and looking at the previous feedback, it seems uncertain as to whether I can qualify for either one. I am a 22 year postgraduate from England. I have a letter of invitation from my proposed employer. Can you shed some light on this?

    Many thanks,


    1. Alex: You’re right that it’s a gray area. For a noncitizen who does not hold a residence permit in China for study, it’s not clear whether any visa is available to perform an unpaid internship. See the above Q&A regarding, “Which visa is appropriate to do an internship in China if I have no residence certificate for study?”

      1. Thank you for replying. So you’d say it’s unlikely that the Chinese embassy in London would grant me either an F/M or it’s totally uncertain and potentially down to the individual?

        1. Alex: There’s no public guidance from the government that I’m aware of as to whether an F or M visa can or cannot be granted for an unpaid internship. In the absence of such guidance, it seems to me that an individual consular officer at the PRC Embassy in London may have discretion to decide whether a visa should be granted, and–once you arrive in China–it seems to me that an individual PSB officer has discretion to decide whether you have violated the terms of your visa. The government should provide public guidance in order to increase transparency and reduce risks for potential interns and sponsors.

          1. The employer originally wanted me to have a Z visa for paid work, but I lack the required 2 years of work experience related to my university degree. So the main plan of action was to do an unpaid internship, applying for an F or M visa in Hong Kong. I have feeling this won’t play out well. Thanks for your time, you’ve been a big help.

  46. Dear Gary,

    I have already obtained a 1-year residence permit (family reunion type), for which I did a physical examination. To renew my permit for another year do I need to do another physical examination?


  47. No. The statute requires a medical exam from anybody applying to the PSB for an initial residence permit valid for one year or more. (Art. 16). In contrast, no medical exam is needed when extending a residence permit, changing from one type of residence permit to another, or replacing a residence permit. (Art. 17).

  48. Hi Gray,

    I am a student over here in China for three years, and have my wife and two kids living with me as a family. Every time I went for visa extension of my family they give them an extension of three months. But from now they say they have changed their visa policy according to which my wife and children have to go back to our country and apply for the new type of visa according to china visa policy? Is this true, does my family really have to go back? AND what if a child is born in china but definitely not a Chinese national, does he have to go to his country too for visa renewal.

    1. Sajo,

      Under the new law, the relatives of a foreign national who holds a resident permit for study may qualify for a “resident permit for private affairs.” I assume your family members’ old visas are L visas. So the question is whether they can switch from an L visa to a “resident permit for private affairs” in the China. The new law and regulations are silent on this. Check with your local PSB regarding its rules.

      If your family members are unable to apply for residence permits for private affairs at the PSB, then they can apply for S1 visas for private affairs abroad then use those to apply for the residence permits upon return to China.

      As to a child born in China to two foreign parents, see article 40 of the Exit-Entry Administration Law: “For foreign infants born in China, their parents or agents shall take birth certificate of the infants to register their stay or residence at exit and entry administration authorities in public security organs of local people’s governments at and above the county level where their parents reside within 60 days after birth of the infants.”

  49. Dear Gary,

    I am wondering if a foreign volunteer teacher for a summer Chinese middle school training program will continue to get a F visa? The volunteer teacher only gets room and board, no salary. The Chinese teachers or their work units or local education department pay a fee for the training program to the Chinese sponsor of the program or to the the US company that brings the foreign volunteer teachers to China to teach. In the past F visa is what was required but with new regulations it is unclear what kind of visa the teacher should get.

    Appreciate your insight

    1. Stephanie,

      As mentioned above, internships are not a specifically authorized activity under the new descriptions of F and M visas, and without further official guidance it’s not clear whether internships are impliedly within their scope.

  50. As a 72 years old, long term friend of China I am in Beijing nearing the Oct 17 expiry of my F visa (granted via Hong Kong (CTS) April 18 2013, after several renewals. I have exited mainland 3 or 4 times in this year.
    I want to continue to stay for 2-3 years more to advance and complete several philanthropic projects funded from my savings, and free advice assistance.
    After BJ Sec Bureau advice I am going to HK to attenpt a renewal or new visa next week Oct8. I have a non profit mainland registered company ready to invite me , but I dont intend any paid employment. Any advices on action and HK based help next week? Thanks

    1. Murray,

      We’re not taking new clients this week because of the holiday. However, upon your return to Beijing, you may want to consult with us about eligibility for a residence for employment or private affairs. A bit more stable and flexible than F visa runs.

  51. Dear Gary,

    I hope that you can advise me, as I am a bit lost after reading the new rules !!

    I got married earlier this year, my wife is Chinese and resident in Beijing. For the moment, I am based outside mainland China, I have an F visa which has just expired and I will apply for a new visa in Hong Kong, as my next visit to BJ is a one week trip later in October.

    After reading the new rules, I am unsure whether to go for a M visa or for either L, Q1 or Q2…….

    Any help would be much appreciated.

    Best regards and thanks in advance,


    1. A Q1 visa isn’t appropriate for a one-week trip since Q1 is for purposes of entering China and applying to the PSB for a residence permit for family reunion. One week is not long enough for PSB to process that application.

      A Q2 is appropriate for such a short-term visit. You would be required to submit an invitation letter issued by your PRC spouse with information about you (full name, gender, date of birth, etc.), the visit (purpose of visit, arrival and departure dates, places to be visited, relationship between the applicant and the inviting individual, source of financial support, etc.), and your spouse (name, contact number, address, signature, etc.), along with a photocopy of your spouse’s national ID.

      A L for toursim would also be appropriate, if you will be engaged in tourism. You would be required to submit either either a travel itinerary, including round-trip air reservations (往返机票订单) and hotel reservations, or an invitation letter by your spouse identifying you (full name, gender, date of birth, etc.), describing the planned visit (arrival and departure dates, places to be visited, etc.), and identifying your spouse (name, contact telephone number, address, and signature).

      The Commissioner of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs in HK states that you should choose which category is the main purpose for your visit. So unless you will be mainly engaged in tourism, choose the Q2.

      1. Thanks for your clear reply Gary, especially for highlighting the “main purpose” point, whish makes me think that I will probably opt for a M visa this time, continuing on from my previous F visas. If I understand correctly, having a Chinese wife does not prevent me from getting an M visa !

        Thanks again.

  52. Hi Gary,

    I’m currently visiting a friend in Beijing on one of the new S2 visas. It is only a 30 day visa, but I would like to stay for at least one more month. Do you know if it possible to extend this visa? I’ve seen talk of extensions for tourist visas, but nothing of this new S visa.


    1. Nicolas,

      S2 visas are issued to foreign nationals coming to China for “private affairs.” This includes a short-term visit with foreign “family members” residing in Beijing because of work or study. The term “family members” for this purpose includes spouse, parent, spouse’s parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, and child’s spouse. An S2 visa may also be issued for other “private affairs,” such as to receive medical treatment in China. Under national rules, an S2 may be granted extensions that cumulatively do not exceed your initially granted duration of stay (30 days). Beijing rules impose further restrictions: the extension may not exceed 180 days to visit family or 90 days for other reasons. In your case, then, your extension may not exceed 30 days. For further details about application requirements and procedures, see the Beijing provisional procedures.

  53. Gary,

    May I ask one further question ? Do you think that the fact I have three F visas in my passport will cause a problem if I apply for a M visa this time ?

    Thanks in advance,


    1. Having multiple prior F visas counts as a good track record if it appears to the government that you have complied with their terms.

      In contrast, having multiple prior F visas is a problem if it appears that you have violated their terms, such as by using the F visa to work illegally in China.

  54. Great article.

    I have a question though, I have been in China for the last couple of months on a F visa. Up until now I’ve been here on business, but now I want to open my own company here. The problem is that it’s not going to be an WFOE as I have 2 Chinese partners and I won’t be the legal representative (法定代表人) of the company. We are starting the company with a registered capital of 500,000 RMB.

    As you can imagine, I want to stay here to work in my company, but as far as I know they might not give working visas to anyone that is not the legal representative of the company. Is the new R visa an option? What should I do?

    1. Hi Phil,

      Time to hire an immigration lawyer. Your eligibility for a work visa will depend in part on local rules regarding requirements the company must meet (e.g., registered capital) and that you must meet (e.g., degree, experience). Of course I’m biased, but I feel strongly that immigration planning should be incorporated into the business plan as early as possible in the process.

      As mentioned above, there are no R visa rules published yet.

  55. Hi,
    Great post. i have a question though. I recently went with the HR manager from the company I worked for to get a visa in my new passport as I lost my old one. I have a work permit issued in December last year that is valid till December 24th 2013.
    When we went to PSB they asked to look at the original business licence of the company which we gave them and they accepted. 14 days later, On sept 26th I received a personal call from someone at PSB telling me that I had to go back on Friday Sept 27th with the business licence and the HR manager again. I called the HR guy and told him this but he said he was out of town and that he would be back Monday before October holiday.
    Over the weekend however he called and told me the company licence had expired and that both he and the company had relocated to another city and weren’t coming back so I should go and fetch my passport myself. Obviously alarm bells went off. I waited till the holiday was over and went there today, Oct. 8th and I was asked why I did not go on Friday to which I told them about my HR manager. I was told that I have to bring him with me or else they would not return my passport. I told them again that he had said he would not come and that I have to do it myself to which the officer told me he would give me one week to deliver him to PSB or else they would hold on to my passport and that this was the only solution for me. I am stumped by this because even if I could find this HR guy, how am I supposed to forcibly deliver him to PSB if he doesn’t want to go? I had no suspicions about the company or this guy until I received the call from PSB. After all they had given me a job and valid visa and he was helpful when I needed to reapply for the visa to put it in my new passport. He even came with me to turn in the paper work. If they had questions, I don’t know why they accepted my passport and did not question the guy right there and then. Why issue me a receipt and why wait till the evening the day before I was meant to pick up my passport to call me about this issue. Has any one ever had their passport withheld/confiscated. I am not interested in getting another visa at this point. I have been here nine years and it has always been a stressful situation come visa time. I think I have had enough and would just like my passport back so I can leave. Do I have any recourse or do they have the right to keep my passport for as long as they want? Is there any department to report to such grievances or do I have to deal with the same person that called me.

    1. Agnes,

      I understand the difficult position you’ve been put in. What city did you apply for the new residence permit in? Perhaps the best case scenario is that PSB will determine that you are not eligible for reissuance of the residence permit and allow you a period of time to depart the country. Perhaps the worst case scenario is that your HR manager has absconded because of illegal activity, and the PSB suspects you are involved in that activity, in which case you could be detained while PSB investigates. You may want to get legal representation to help you determine the level of risk you face.

  56. Hi sir,
    I am a PhD student in Shanghai. My PhD study period is September 2013 to July 2017. If my wife applies for an S1 visa at the Chinese consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, how long can she stay in China, and will she need a medical exam?

    1. Hammad: An S1 visa is valid for a single entry to China, after which the visa holder must apply within 30 days at the local public security bureau’s entry-exit office for a residence permit for private affairs. A medical exam is required only at the latter step. (In Beijing, applicants under age 18 are exempt from the medical exam; in Shanghai, applicants under age 18 or over age 70 are exempt).

      Note that the Ministry of Public Security has not yet issued nationwide rules on residence permits per China’s new Exit-Entry Administration Law, so local practices vary significantly. For example, Beijing has issued provisional procedures effective Sept. 5, 2013.

      The term of validity of the residence permit is also subject to local rules. In Beijing, the permit is valid for the same period as that of the relative working or studying in China, provided that relative’s residence permit is valid for at least 180 days.

      For more info about S1 visas and residence permits for private affairs, see here.

      1. Thanks sir,
        One more question: You told me the S1 visa is for a single entry to China, but you also said that after the visa holder enters China, within 30 days he must apply at the local public security bureau’s entry-exit office for a residence permit for private affairs. But according to website, the S1 visa is valid for trips of more than 180 days. I’m confused.

        Hammad Memon

        1. Hamad:

          Yes, many people are confused. The key is the difference between a visa and a residence permit explained above.

          The S1 visa is just for 1 entry. Then within 30 days of entry you need to apply for a residence permit. That permit can be used to enter and exit China for its validity, which by law must be between 180 days and 5 years. The exact validity of your reentry permit will depend, at this point, on local policy because there is no nationwide policy in place right now.

  57. Hi Gary,

    Thanks for continuing to update and for responding to the comments!
    I am currently on a one-year multiple entry F visa issued in Ottawa (home city home country) at the end of August. I have been on the visa since the beginning of September here in China to prepare my Z visa documents. I haven’t had any problems, and the documentation is prepared for my Z visa application. Is it still possible to go to Hong Kong to apply? Will I need to return to Canada even though I was just there in August and my visa was issued there?
    I’d really appreciate your opinion on this.

      1. I’ll be working in Huzhou. The letter of invitation has not yet been written. Is there a way to make a request to them so that it has a better chance of approval in Hong Kong? The company has a good history with the issuing authority.

        1. The duly authorized unit’s invitation letter should list the location of the PRC consulate where you will apply for the visa. However, there are some cities in China that will not list any PRC consulate besides the one in your home country. If Huzhou won’t list Hong Kong, you could have problems applying for the Z visa in Hong Kong.

  58. A very detailed article, thank-you Gary.
    Just wondering is their any indications about how long PSB residency permits (on work visas) will take to apply for in Shenzhen? As now Christmas and Chinese New Year are approaching, I will really want to have the option of visiting family back at home during these times and not being stuck for 6 weeks while they process it. Is it the same for first time applications of these permits and renewals? This is in Shenzhen also.

    1. Tristan: I wonder if you’re ahead of the curve. In other words, most people (especially journalists who need to renew their residence permits at the end of the year) may not be thinking about how the new 15-business day maximum processing period for residence permits will be extra-long during the holidays and Spring Festival. Anyway, the Shenzhen PSB Exit-Entry Administration doesn’t say that processing is “maximum” 15 business days; instead, it says that processing “is” 15 business days, period: http://www.sz3e.com/view.aspx?id=2130666.

  59. Hi,

    If I am currently living and working in China. Would I be able to reapply or to renew my Z-Visa (Work Permit) through the Chinese Consulate in California, without having to fly back to the States first?

    Also, is a personal interview normally required for applying or renewing Z Visas?



    1. Simon,

      If you’re currently working in China, you should hold a residence permit for work issued by the PSB exit-entry office. If your status is lawful and you follow the local procedures (set forth by the exit-entry office, municipal bureau of human resources and social security, and/or local foreign affairs office, depending on your situation)for switching employers and extending your residence permit, then you don’t need to go abroad to a PRC embassy or consulate to apply for a new Z visa.

  60. Hi Gary

    Excellent blog!!!

    I have a one-year, multiple-entry Chinese (F) business visa issued in May 2013, with 30-days stay per entry. I see that recent changes in policies affect all business travelers. To date, I have spend ~80 cumulative days in China this year. My question: Is there a 90-day cumulative stay per calendar year limit for business visa holders?

    1. No. However, business visa holders need to (a) be aware of the line between legitimate business activities and unauthorized work and (b) be aware of the potential “permanent establishment” tax consequences for the foreign employer of spending over 90 days per year in China.

  61. Hi: I came to China on a Z visa and applied for a residency permit within the first 30 days. That is currently pending. My sister has gone really ill back home with a brain tumour, and I’m going to tell work that I want to go home. What should I do? Thanks, Michael.

    1. Michael: Sorry to hear about your sister’s condition. If your goal is to go back to your country to see your sister as soon as possible, then you may be able to ask the local PSB to expedite adjudication of your residence permit so that you can get your passport back faster than the normal 15-working day processing time, go home to see her, and then re-enter China to work. The Beijing PSB’s policy for expediting applications, for example, is listed here. If I’ve misunderstood your goal, feel free to reply, clarifying what city you are in and what your intention is.

  62. Hi Gary,
    My girlfriend has a Z-visa and I am on an F-visa which is about to expire. She is French and I am American, we have been together for 2 years, living together in Shanghai for one year. Since both France and America now recognize same-sex marriages, we were contemplating marrying in one of our countries (we are both women). Is there a policy regarding same-sex marriages when applying for S-1 or S-2 visas?

    1. Katie,

      Shanghai PSB has told us they will not issue a residence permit for private affairs on the basis of a same-sex marriage to a work-based residence permit holder. I’m not aware of any strategy for overcoming this. I’d like to hear about others’ thoughts and experiences because, at least in the past, Beijing PSB did issue such residence permits. Also, it seems there may be room for advocacy because the definition of “private affairs” isn’t limited in the statute or regulations, and in practice includes residence permits for persons seeking medical care and overseas Chinese age 60+ who own homes on the Mainland. Why shouldn’t the term “private affairs” be broad enough to include same-sex spouses?

      1. Has Beijing PSB issued any guidance on same-sex spouses? I recently married my husband (who holds a Z-visa) in the United States and I provided the marriage certificate to the Chinese consulate when I applied for an S-1 visa. They said that no guidance has been issued, so they refused to process the application. I’m now in Beijing on an F-visa and would like to apply for an S-1 visa if there is formal guidance I can refer them to.

  63. Hello Gary,

    I’ve been in Shanghai for two months, and I will stay here until next July. I’m studying at the University and have a residence permit for study. I plan to start an internship next semester–in March. So I would need the approval of the PSB, but as said in your article, the framework to ask for the approval is not yet published. Do you have any recommendation how I should proceed with this? I already asked at the International Office of my university, but they also did not know.
    Thank you!

    1. Dominik,

      There’s nothing you can do to apply for authorization for an internship until rules are in place defining the procedures, which will likely involve requesting permission from your school and then from the PSB. Hopefully the rules will be published in time that you can take advantage of the opportunity.

  64. Hi,

    I’m holding a family reunion residence permit (obtained by Q Visa), so I’m allowed to ‘live’ in China.
    Now I’m looking for my first job in China, and I want to know what is the procedure to work legally.
    Do I have to obtain a working visa (Z type)?
    Can i directly apply for a working residence permit in the city i find the job?
    Do i just need a foreign expert certificate or/and employment licence?
    Do I need to leave China or can I do it directly in the Mainland?


    1. China has the following types of temporary work visas for persons not here on behalf of foreign governments or international organizations: J1 resident foreign journalist, R for high-level or urgently needed talent, and Z (generic) work visa. (These are listed above).

      Z visas can be further categorized as those who need an “work permit” (就业证) issued by a municipal bureau of human resources and social security and the exceptions, who don’t:

      • foreign experts
      • certain workers in offshore petroleum operations
      • commercial entertainers

      (See Rules for Administration of Employment of Foreign Nationals in China, art. 9.)

      Assuming you do plan to apply for a “work permit” and Z visa, then he’s a flow chart of the typical application steps.

      And as to whether you can change from your current residence permit for family reunion to a resident permit for work without leaving the country to apply for a Z visa, local polices vary.

  65. Dear sir,

    If some one is granted S-2 visa valid for a maximum 180 days, can this visa be converted to a residence permit for the same duration as one’s relative’s residence permit for work in China, or does the S-2 visa holder need to leave and re-enter China with S-1 visa first?


    1. Ali,

      Under pre-existing rules, this is only allowed in “special cases” (特殊情况). The new statute and State Council regulations are silent on this. So it’s currently up to localities whether they want to grant a change from an S2 visa to a residence permit for private affairs.

      Take Beijing for example. Although it’s not written in Beijing’s rules, the Beijing PSB stated orally on Oct. 17, 2013, that if the applicant did not enter with an S1 visa, no residence permit for private affairs will be issued unless the relative with a residence permit for work can submit a certification by a Chinese government agency of being a high-level talent or a professional in urgent need in China.

      Most S2s can’t obtain such a letter and must, therefore, go abroad to obtain an S1 visa.

      1. Thank you for your reply. Is it possible to cancel the issued S-2 visa before entering into China and re-apply for S-1 visa in the same country to avoid the inconvenience of leave and re-enter again in China with S-1 visa???

  66. Mr. Chodorow,

    These are the actors:

    * American husband on an F visa, living in Beijing.
    * Chinese wife living in Hohhot (Inner Mongolia) with hukou from Shule County (Xinjiang).

    Neither works, studies, or owns property in China.

    Can the American apply for a marriage visa (any sort) in Beijing?

    Previously… it went like this:

    1. I was refused in Beijing for lack of jurisdiction because my wife has no Beijing hukou.
    2. I was refused in Urumuqi (capital of Xinjiang) and told to aplply in Shule County since I am not in my wife’s hukou.
    3. I was refused in Shule because the county doesn’t have the authority to issue marriage visas over 3 months.
    4. I was refused in Hohhot.

    After 12000 yuan wasted on transport, I stopped trying and have bought random F visas from agents ever since. Any suggestions?

    1. S,

      Thanks for checking in. The question–which isn’t addressed in the above FAQ–is, which PSB office(s) have jurisdiction to issue a visa or residence permit?

      A residence permit application should be filed and extended in the place of residence (居留地) (EEAL, arts. 30, 32; regs, art. 16) (EEAL, art. 32). Similarly, a visa extension or replacement application should be filed in the place where the applicant is staying (停留). (EEAL, art. 35; regs, art. 10).

      In either case, it should be filed with the PSB exit-entry administration “at or above the county level.” (EEAL, arts. 4, 30, 32; regs, arts. 10,16).

      In your case, you could potentially apply for a residence permits for family reunion (家庭团聚) for a stay of over 180 days, or a Q2 visa for for a family visits (探亲) for a stay of up to 180 days. (Regs, art. 5(8), 6(8)).

      In either case, local Beijing PSB rules require that your PRC relative submit a hukou or temporary residence card (暂住证) showing over 6 months residence in Beijing. (arts. 1.1.3, 1.2.2).

      Reading the Beijing local rules together with the national rules leads to the conclusion that a Q2 visa or a residence permit for family reunion can only be filed at the place where both (a) your PRC relative has a hukou or temporary residence permit and (b) you will stay or reside.

      I haven’t researched whether the Hohhot rules and Shule County / Xinjiang rules are similar.

      The result is harsh in terms of freedom of movement: you can’t intend to stay/reside in a different place than your wife, and you only qualify if she’s got temporary residence registration or a hukou there. And reforming the entire hukou system is a much bigger challenge the country faces.

      1. Yeah… it seems I’m pretty f****d 😛

        Upon marriage, I really just disregarded the hukou thing as a relic only affecting status among the Chinese. I never thought it’d be a consideration as a foreign spouse – to make sure you marry a girl with a ‘good’ hukou…

        I’ll look into whether she could get a Beijing temporary residence permit.

        Thanks a lot for your advice, Mr. Chodorow! Your advice probably goes for a lot of us not living in ‘the big five’ 😉

  67. Hi,

    Are students with X visas allowed to volunteer? Let’s say helping out at the orphanage, or volunteering at an NGO / non-profit?

    1. Volunteering in a not-for-profit venture is encouraged. But if it appears you are filling a position that would otherwise be filled by a Chinese employee, or if you are being compensated, then you risk being penalized for unauthorized work.

      An example is that the Shanghai PSB determined that “volunteering” in a fashion show was unauthorized employment because even though the foreign national was unpaid, still the foreign national was filling a position in a for-profit venture that would otherwise be filled by PRC citizen employee.

  68. Hi sir,

    I am a PhD student. My wife got an S1 visa. It will be valid for 30 days. She wants to apply a residence permit. Does she a need medical exam again in China?
    Hammad Memon

    1. Hammad: In what city will your wife apply for a residence permit for private affairs? When was her last medical exam? Where was it taken, and for what purpose?

      1. She will apply for a residence permit in Hangzhou. She did her medical exam 1 month ago in Pakistan.

        1. To apply for a residence permit, she’ll need a health check by the local health center designated by the local Exit-Entry Administration. If she’s got a health check done abroad within the most recent 6 months, she can bring it to the local health center. If it’s complete, they’ll certify that it’s complete. But most often they require additional tests before they’ll certify a health check done abroad.

  69. Dear Gary,

    I was born in China but subsequently acquired Canadian citizenship (which led to automatic renouncement of my Chinese citizenship; my Chinese passport was annulled as I had to submit it to obtain a visa to visit family). I would like to restore my Chinese citizenship (and renounce my Canadian one). My understanding is that the law permits this, though the wording in article 13 appears to qualify that it is only permitted “with good reason” which raises concern, as the procedure appears to require renouncement of foreign citizenship prior to being able to apply for the application of restoration of citizenship:

    第十三条 曾有过中国国籍的外国人,具有正当理由,可以申请恢复中国国籍;被批准恢复中国国籍的,不得再保留外国国籍。

    Any suggestions?

    Many thanks!!


    1. Alan,

      The statute requires renouncing foreign nationality only after your PRC nationality is restored (不得再保留外国国籍). And the good cause (正当理由) needed for restoration isn’t a high standard. It’s comparable to the standard for naturalization of foreign nationals–having close relatives in China or settling in China, for example. (See article 7).

      Of course, Ministry of Public Security adjudications are somewhat of a black box. But if China is the place you call home, you should consider applying for PRC nationality (or permanent residence).

      1. Thank you so much for the kind clarification Gary!! My bias to fearing for the worst definitely made me mis-read that!

        A bit of a tricky question perhaps, but do you have thoughts on implications for 户口 and 身份证?I wonder whether there would be ‘optionality’ of getting a new 户口 and 身份证 OR ‘re-using’ my old 户口 (never got 身份证).

        Many thanks again!


          1. My apologies for the delayed response Gary.

            The first reason I am concerned is due to location – my old hukou is in Beijing, while my 祖籍 and (as well as my relatives) are in Changsha. I am worried that if my rationale per your response above includes that I have relatives in China, that my new hukou would be in Changsha as opposed to Beijing (which is where I am planning to take up residence).

            Secondly is more for timing consideration, as I am wary of administrative procedures in China in general, and the lengthy time it can take. Say I need to apply for a new Hukou, and then get a new ID card – even for convenience reasons it may matter. On the other hand, I could conceivably begin to proceed to obtain an ID card using my old hukou as soon as I get in to China.

            (It would also be good to know for other reasons, including the fact that they accidentally misspelled a character in my name (not my surname) on my old Hukou when it was obtained, but I never bothered to correct it, so useful to know from a ‘how to get things sorted out the easiest’ point of view in addition to the above)

            Many thanks,


  70. Dear Gary
    I’m currently on a 30-day Q2 visa visiting family.
    Is there a way for me to extend my stay in China for a longer period of time without going back to my home country?
    I got my visa issued in Macau; however; they only give 30 days duration of stay.

    Much thanks,


  71. Gary,
    I am currently working as a teacher in Rizhao, China with a Z visa. I have informed my current employer that I wish to switch jobs because I am unhappy with the job. I gave them written notice per our contract, and my current employer is willing to provide me with all the necessary paperwork to legally leave. My new job is ready to hire me, and it’s a school in the same province and city as my current employer. This will take place next week.

    My question: is it possible to switch employers without having to return back to the United States? Can I simply begin working at my new school, assuming they are able to legally process my documents? Thanks for the help.


  72. Dear Gary,

    My wife is a Chinese citizen. I obtained a 1-year residence permit on about Sept. 13 after entering on an L visa by submitting to PSB a medical checkup etc. In fact I don’t want to live in China, but since I’ll be visiting my wife quite often, I got the permit to avoid all the visa difficulties and costs.
    If I stay in China just about 60 days per year, do you think if I will face any problems renewing my residence permit?

    Thank you in advance.

  73. Hi Gary,

    I am on the process of obtaining my Beijing employment license. Do I need to authenticate my bachelor’s degree diploma at the PRC Consulate in my home country for this purpose?

  74. Hello Gary. I had been given 1 year residence permit as a student and was allowed to go back to my home in Germany to do my internship for 1 year there and was told to come back before the expiration of it viz. June 2014. Now I want to accompany my friend who is about to study in a university in another province. Will I be able to enter China with the above said residence permit( study) to accompany the friend.? Thanks in advance.

    1. Sean: If I understand your question, it’s this: can a person use a residence permit for study to enter the country in order to visit a friend? Unless I’ve misunderstood your question, the answer is no. A residence permit for study is only good to enter China for study.

  75. Hi Gary,
    thank you very much for your interesting blog. I read the section about interns above, because I tried to get a M visa in Germany for an internship in Beijing. My application had been refused because in order to get an M visa I have to be employed outside China. They told me to get a Z visa or one for Students. In your FAQ it says that guidance must be formulated. Do you have new information regarding internships? What couId I do next, because my internship should begin in January and I think i am running out of time. What’s about those interns who are still working with M or F visa, are they working illegal and could get punished?

    Thank you very much for answering!

    1. Alexander: Sorry, No. I’m not aware of any new policy statement by the government impacting the above “Which visa is appropriate to do an internship in China if I have no residence certificate for study?”

  76. I am currently working as an English teacher in China. I have a Z visa and already have my residence/work permit. My question is Is it legal for me to tutor someone regularly on the side for money? From what you wrote, it sounds like that would constitute a second employer, and since my work visa was only approved for teaching at my university, it would be illegal. Is that correct?

    Thank you!


    1. Yes, Brent, since you are authorized to teach only at one particular university, if you were to take a teaching job at a separate work unit, that would be unauthorized work under EEAL art. 43. Also, self-employment in China by foreign nationals isn’t allowed under the Regulations on Individual Businesses. Would your university be willing to set up an additional class for the students you wish to teach then pay you for teaching them?

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply, Gary! I have asked the school to do that for me, but they were not willing. That’s OK. This information is still very helpful to know for the future.

        Thanks again!


  77. I have decided to leave my position as a business intern to study and improve my Chinese, but the local college I was going to go through says they are unable to change my M Visa into a Student Visa. Is the M Visa un-changeable? What route is available for me to get access to a Student Visa again?

  78. Hello,

    I am about to get married soon and want to know if I have to be included in my wife’s hukou in order to qualify for a Q1 visa and residence permit for family reunion.

    Thank you.

    1. When your wife is married, the local police station can update her hukou (family registration booklet) to show her marital status as “married.” However, a foreigner will not be issued a hukou or included in another person’s hukou. The key document you’ll need for a Q1 visa or a residence permit for family reunion is the marriage certificate.

  79. Greetings. My comment is on question 19 (“How early must an application for a visa, stay certificate, or residence permit be filed with the Exit-Entry Administration?”).

    You mention that the PSB will consider imposing fines for filing late. Does this mean that you can still file for an extension even though less than 7 days remain?

      1. Thank you, Gary. I’m filing my business extension today, and I didn’t know about the new 7 day rule (I have six days left). I wanted an answer to this question before I arrived at the PSB, and you gave it to me. I appreciate it!

  80. Hi Gary

    Thanks for the informative post. I wish to apply for an internship for 5 and a half months (2014 March 10 – August 9) as part of a School Overseas Internship programme.

    However this new visa law seems to disallow me from using an F visa to get an internship in Shanghai (paid 80 rmb a day).

    Could you please advise me if it is still possible for me to legally get a visa? StanChart won’t take me in unless i have a legitimate visa.

    thanks and regards

    1. My current understanding is summarized above in the FAQ, “Which visa is appropriate to do an internship in China if I have no residence certificate for study?”

      One strategy I mention is that you may be able to arrange an internship with StanChart in your home country, which may then be able to arrange an M visa for you to come to China for “commercial or trade” activities.

  81. Hello, I have a X2, and I am studying in China right now, but my studies end in the end of December, at which time my visa also expires. I want to start chinesse classes in a different institute starting form January but they told me that in order to get another x visa from the new institution I have to go back to my home country and apply from there. Is this true?

    1. Hi Sebastian: What city are you intending to study in, and are you hoping to apply for an X2 visa for short-term study (under 180 days) or a residence permit for study (学习类的居留证件)?

  82. I manage a company that occasionally has part-time work which foreigners already legally working in China can do.

    Can my company hire foreigners with work-type residence permits from other companies to do part-time work for my company?

    1. Tim:

      In short, no. As mentioned above, foreign nationals are be barred from working “outside the scope” of their work license (工作许可) and residence permit. Both the foreign expert’s license (外国专家来华工作许可证) and the employment license (外国人就业许可证书) specify the work unit for which the foreign national is authorized to work.

      There would also be some risk to your company for hiring them without authorization, as also mentioned above.

      Perhaps a more creative solution is in order. How about outsourcing to a work unit that already employs the talent you need?

  83. Hello Gary

    I found your article quite amazing.

    I came to china with an F visa for an internship with an agency in Zhejiang before the rules changed. After the rules changed, my internship was discontinued. I applied for the M visa. I After that I got a job in Shenzhen and the company decided to help me out with the Z visa procedure. I have the Z visa and my application for a work-type residence permit is pending.

    Today police came to the office to check everything and they found out I was in Zhejiang previously. The police asked my company during a 3-minute interview about where I am from, my degree, my working plan. They even asked why I never mentioned the internship in Zhejiang in my CV. I was not in the office.

    Could this affect my application for the work-type residence permit?

    1. Rede,

      There are a few potential grounds of ineligibility, which I’ve mentioned above in the question, “What are the grounds of ineligibility?”

      b. The foreign national practices fraud in the application process: Here, it’s possible the omission of the internship could be considered a fraud, depending on the complete facts and how PSB interprets them.

      f. The foreign national may engage in activities in China inconsistent with his or her visa classification: If the PSB were to determine you previously violated your status, that could be a basis to determine that you may do so again.

      i. Other circumstances cause the exit-entry administration to believe it would be inappropriate to issue the residence certificate: This is a catch-all ground if PSB wants to exercise its authority to deny the residence permit.

      You’ll soon get your answer. There’s no appeal from a PSB refusal of a residence permit, but reapplication may be possible.

  84. Dear Gary,

    I was stopped by the police in Beijing and fined more than RMB10,000 for working part-time at a second school (not the one that sponsored my Z visa). I am holding valid Foreign Expert Certificate and Residence Permit for work. I wasn’t detained or deported. The police said I will not have any more problems and that the case is closed. Will I have any troubles with renewing my FEC and Residence Permit next year?

    1. Alex:

      Detention for illegal work is reserved for “serious” violations (EEAL, art. 80), so that’s one sign yours wasn’t viewed by PSB as serious. The PSBs in various cities are making local guidelines for when they’ll consider unauthorized employment to be “serious.” I haven’t seen the Beijing guidelines, but Kunming’s PSB defines as serious:

      1. working illegally for more than 3 months;
      2. over RMB 20,000 gained through the unauthorized work;
      3. working illegally within 1 year of previous sanctions for illegal work; and
      4 “other serious circumstances.”


      Grounds to deny a residence permit include both that the foreign national may engage in activities inconsistent with his visa and “other circumstances” making the issuance “inappropriate,” as I mentioned to Rede above. The law is written in terms broad enough that the PSB has the discretion to either approve or deny a subsequent residence permit application. But the less serious your violation is considered to be by the PSB, the less likely these grounds for denial would be invoked against you.

  85. Gary,

    Great blog, very informational. I have a question about the new law that authorizes holders of residence permits for study to do part-time work and internships.

    I am a U.S. citizen doing a Master’s degree on a Chinese Government Scholarship at a Chinese University in Shanghai. I already “teach / tutor” illegally and part time on the side. About 2-3 months ago our school sent us an email saying that even though the law is out, the official guidelines and regulations are still not stipulated, so if we have any internships or jobs paid or unpaid, we need to discontinue them immediately until they give us further clarification.

    1. If my school agrees, is it possible that I am able to turn my currently illegal part time teaching jobs into legal part time teaching jobs where I am actually getting paid. My goals is to completely support myself here.

    2. Starting in July 2014, I have a year and a half of nothing but thesis preparation. Can I work near-full time for cash (or be compensated with room and board)?



    1. Mike,

      The new law delegates to the Ministry of Education the obligation to establish a framework for foreign students to obtain work authorization. (EEAL, art. 42.)

      The implementing rules from the State Council say that a person with a residence certificate for study who wants to take a part-time job or internship off campus should obtain approval from the school, then apply to the PSB Exit-Entry Administration for a notation to the residence certificate showing the part-time job or the location and period of internship off campus. (State Council regs, art. 22).

      The Ministry of Education hasn’t yet published the framework rules for how and when it’s possible to undertake a part-time job or internship. Presumably, that framework will discuss the maximum hours that may be worked and any rules for compensation.

      It’s illegal for foreign students to work without authorization or beyond the scope authorized. (EEAL, art. 43(3).) So, unfortunately, your school’s warning is accurate that–prior to actual approval by your school and authorization by the PSB–any part-time job or internship could be considered unauthorized employment by the PSB. It is unfortunate that the Ministry of Education hasn’t published the new framework rules, and it would seem harsh for PSB to penalize students for their activities in the meantime.

  86. Dear Gary,

    My partner, a Vietnamese national, was arrested recently in China as she had an F visa rather than an L visa. Under the new rules, she is being detained in an immigration centre and refused any contact other than by her lawyer. Her lawyer believes she isn’t guilty of a crime because she was unaware that she had the wrong type of visa, as it had been obtained through a visa service company. The lawyer wants her to fight the case, but says it could take up to 6 months to come to court. Meanwhile she will remain in detention. This situation is extremely stressful and it feels like every avenue that is open to help is blocked.

    Best regards

    1. Steve,

      If your partner is low-income, then you may want to help her contact the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an international organization recognized by the UN, which has offices in China and assists irregular migrants in returning to their home countries. It’s IOM’s position that irregular migration should be treated as a crime only in the most severe cases.

      If you have concerns about the legal advice your partner is receiving, you may want to get a second opinion. Another lawyer can review the file and interview your wife then advise your partner about her options.

      Finally, if she’s been denied communications, she may want to request assistance from her lawyer, IOM, or Vietnamese consular officials. Under international law she has a right to communicate with her consular officials, and they may be in a position to assist with further communications with family, etc.

  87. Dear Gary,

    I am a professor invited to give a plenary lecture at an academic conference. I have a letter of invitation from a Chinese government official and a sponsorship certificate for flight, hotel, etc.

    Do I need an F visa, M, or something else?

  88. Dear Gary,

    Thank you for your excellent advices and info, you are helping a lot, thank you so much.
    My case, and also my colleagues is that we are living and working in China, as teachers in universities or school legally, with Z visa for around or more than 5 years. Since July the first the new law seems to limit more strictly the maximum continuous stay in China to a maximum of 5 years.

    A colleague, who stayed 4 years and an half recently was noticed that he could only renew his visa for 6 months, and then he will have to leave China for at least 2 years.

    Another colleague is married to a Chinese national, he is in the same situation, and apparently he will have to leave on october.

    Finally I shall leave on May 2014.

    We are living in Qingdao, as teachers/responsible with Foreign Expert Certificates, and the Z visas.

    Do you have any clues on how to succeed the get our visas renewed? We are all integrated to the Chinese society, with friiends, families, working legally, our employer needs us and want to keep us, so the situation seems to be totally unfair, do you know the goal of such a policy?

    Would it be possible to get the Z visa in Hong Kong and then later the FEC in Qingdao? Or any other options?

    Thank you very much for considering our cases!

    Best regards


  89. Ian,

    According to a 2011 notice of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, entitled “Rules for Management of Hiring Contracts for Foreign Experts in Education or Culture” (in Chinese), “Foreign experts in education or culture in principle should not exceed 65 years in age, nor should they generally work continuously in China for more than 5 years.”

    The terms “in principle” and “generally” leave room for local foreign affairs offices to make exceptions as they deem appropriate. Generally, high level experts with whose skills are most in demand are the beneficiaries of such discretion. Barring that, check with the local foreign affairs office to see how long an absence from work in China will allow you to reset the 5-year clock. Or even better, instead of applying for a new foreign expert certificate (FEC), find a job that will allow you to an employment license, since the 5-year rule applies only to FECs. And a few foreign experts, who have gained national recognition, may also qualify for permanent resident status.

  90. Hi Gary,
    My girlfriend, currently holding a residence permit for study, was recently arrested for teaching english a few hours a week in a school. The PSB gave her a warning and fined her RMB 5000, but she got to keep her residence permit, which expires in 2015.

    We’re now trying to look for answers regarding the impact this incident may have on her future applications for a work visa in China, after she graduates. Should she tick YES for the question “Do you have any criminal record in China or any other country?”, and if so what should she comment? Do you think there would be any problems with her application?
    She has no previous convictions but has held many Chinese visas.

    Thank you for your input on this.


    1. Alex,

      Check the paperwork from the PSB describing your girlfriend’s violation. Assuming it’s working without authorization, that’s an administrative violation, not a crime. So she wouldn’t need to answer “Yes” to questions about criminal history.

      But, as described above, in Q.5, a prior administrative violation could be a basis for denying a visa, residence certificate, stay certificate, or entry to China (EEAL, arts. 21, 25; State Council regs., art 21) because it may lead to a determination that:

      f. The foreign national may engage in activities in China inconsistent with his or her visa classification.

      h. The foreign national might undermine China’s national security and interests, disturb social public order, or be engaged in other illegal criminal activities.

      i. Other circumstances cause the visa-issuing agency or exit-entry administration to believe it would be inappropriate to issue the visa, residence certificate, or stay certificate.

      Those grounds for denial are all broad and subjective, so whether they would lead to a denial depends on the specific facts of the violation and the officer’s view about how serious the violations were and whether violations are likely to recur. While I’m not familiar with all the facts of your girlfriend’s case, the PSB apparently decided the facts weren’t serious enough to warrant her removal from the country. That’s a sign that immigration officials may be willing to let her return in the future.

  91. Hi Gary-

    I’m currently employed as a teacher under a z visa, which is about to expire with my passport renewal. My school just recently had a change of address and said this has created difficulty with obtaining their business license at the new location, therefore I cannot simply transfer or extend my visa for the remainder of my contract as I was previously thought to believe.

    With just under 3 months left of school, they are recommending I go to HK and apply for a multi-entry tourist visa. They tell me it’s been a common practice among teachers with visa issues, but I have a feeling this was before the new laws took place. I’m lost as to what to do. In addition, my child is attached to my z visa and attends the school I’m employed at. Am I okay to apply for the L visa so long as I work for less than 3 months time? I’m concerned that not adhering could lead to some form of breech of contract leaving me unpaid and without my due flight home at the end of my term this summer. At the same time, it doesn’t sound like I have an alternative option and am now wondering if my contract is even valid any longer given the fact that the address has changed since I signed it. Any feedback you could provide is much appreciated.

    Thank you

    1. Jamielynn,

      No, work is not authorized with an L (tourist) visa. Both the tourist and the employer would be subject to penalties for unauthorized employment. The key may be to determine what the real issue is for the school–are you really looking at just 3 months without work authorization, or is the problem something deeper. You may want to seek legal advice.

  92. Hello. I have been working in Shanghai for 5 years. I am 63 years old, and I currently hold an “Expert Permit”. For some personal reasons, my family and I need to stay here until I’m 67. I hear that Expert Permits are not issued to people over 65, though. Permanent Residence might be another option. I am not a “General Manager”, but my job position is above this level, I think. Or maybe I could qualify in the “Top qualified personnel in the world” category. I think it’s true to say that I am a recognized expert in my field, which is computer-related. Any advice?

      1. Hi Gary,

        Thanks for the rapid reply:

        “Foreign experts in education or culture in principle > should not exceed 65 years in age, nor should they generally work continuously in China for more than 5 years.”

        That sounds bad. I have the 65-years-of-age problem, which I knew about, plus the more-than-5-years problem (which I didn’t know about).

        The terms “in principle” and “generally” leave room for local foreign affairs offices to make exceptions as they deem appropriate. Generally, high level experts with whose skills are most in demand are the beneficiaries of such discretion.

        That sounds a lot more promising. Thanks.

  93. Hi Gary,

    Please i am planning to study PhD in China.
    I want to know if i can bring my wife along. If yes, will she be eligible to work?


    1. Ben aya: Yes, a spouse may accompany a long-term student to China. As mentioned in Q2 above, a student planning to study in China for more than 180 days should apply for an X1 visa, and an accompanying spouse can apply for an S1 visa. As mentioned in Q3, within 30 days of arrival in China, the student should apply for a residence permit for study, and the spouse should apply for a residence permit for private affairs.

      But no, the holder of a residence permit for private affairs is not authorized to work in China. She would need to apply for a residence permit for work.

      More about S1 visas and residence permits for private affairs is here: https://lawandborder.com/overview-s1-visa-residence-permit-private-affairs/.

  94. My friend runs WOFE in Shanghai, and the company issued an invitation letter for two Russian students to apply for visas, stating that they will have unpaid internships at the company. The students got F visas successfully at the local consulate. But one week after beginning their internships the cops went to my friend’s company to have a “routine check,” and they found these two foreign interns. The cops said my friend’s company broke the visa law and they wanted to fine him at 50,000 RMB per intern. The police didn’t care that the consulate issued visas for the specific purpose of engaging in internships.


    1. Eric: Yes, the public security bureau (PSB) has the power to determine when a company or foreign national is engaging in unauthorized employment. In Shanghai, the PSB has stated that unpaid services can constitute unauthorized employment. As I’ve explained above, the government agencies haven’t made clear and coordinated policy statements about under what circumstances internships are permissible (by persons who don’t hold residence permits for study). One would hope that in your friend’s case the consulate’s issuance of the visas based on explicit invitation letters by the employer would be taken into account in determining the amount of any fine.

  95. Hi Gary,

    I really need your help. My husband is an English teacher in Peizheng. He is an American and I’m a Filipina.

    I entered China with an S1 visa. The visa’s stated duration of stay is 000, which I’m now told means I must apply for a residence permit within 30 days of entering China (Mar. 19 in my case). Unfortunately, I didn’t understand that originally–I thought I could stay until the visa’s expiration date. So now the PSB wants me to pay a fine of 11,000 RMB for overstaying. I was shocked and cried upon hearing this. This is a lot of money for us.


    1. Maria: Sorry to hear about your situation. Under the Exit-Entry Administration Law, article 78:

      “For illegal residence of aliens, warning shall be given; in serious cases, a penalty of 500 yuan per day shall be imposed on illegal residence, not to exceed a total of 10,000 yuan, or detention period shall be between five and 15 days.”

      Some localities, but not all, have published rules about what constitutes a “serious” case. You may be able to avoid or minimize the fine if you can persuade the PSB that your overstay was unintentional and, therefore, not serious.

  96. Dear Gary,

    I want to ask your opinion.

    Last week I left my job as a teacher in a training school in Ningbo. That school wasn’t authorized to hire foreign teachers, but they arranged for me to work there with a visa sponsored by another company.

    After I left that job, they reported my unauthorized work to the local police. The local police penalized me with a fine of 10,000 RMB. My concern now is, how would that report affect my future attempts to get a new visa?

    I thank you in advance for your help and advice

    1. Costa:

      See my answer above to Alex, who asked a similar question.

      It would take balls for the training school to report you to the PSB for unauthorized employment since the school would potentially (a) subject itself to liability for employing you illegally, and (b) subject the third-party that sponsored the visa to liability for arranging the unauthorized employment.

  97. Dear Gary,

    I got a residence permit for working in Beijing in Company A in one job, but I actually worked in Company B at a different job. Both companies are owned by the same individual, but Company B lacked the required income to sponsor me.

    When she first hired me she claimed she needed two staff, but she never found a second one till recently. Upon finding her second needed staff, she dropped me, saying she only had enough work for one person now and that she preferred to use this new person. (Her other staff had informed me several times that she prefers male staff). But several times she has had me come in when other staff is out sick.

    What I want to know is, am I in any potential position to be fined for working illegally or for not complying with the terms of my residence permit?

    1. Miriam: Sounds like you got a raw deal. As a legal matter, you have never complied with the terms of your residence permit because you never worked in the specific position at Company A for which you were sponsored. Further, your work for Company B would be considered illegal under the rule that “work in China beyond the scope prescribed in the employment license” is illegal. (EEAL, art. 43(2)). For similar reasons, both companies face potential liability.

  98. Dear Gary

    Thank you for a very informative guide

    I have a question. Will it be possible for me to get a Z-visa from HongKong if it is stated in the invitationletter from the company that I am allowed to get the visa in HongKong. Is there anything else that I need to do in order for me to get the Visa in HongKong? I will not be going back to Sweden for a long while and therefore I need to know this.

    Kind regards Karolina

  99. Dan Harris over at China Law Blog called the title of your blog post on this subject “unimaginative”.

    1. Max: I think that’s a fair critique. As a lawyer, I’m overjoyed if I can eek out a sentence in English rather than legalese. Can you suggest an alternative title?

  100. Dear Gary,

    I am in China on a diplomatic visa as a spouse of a diplomat. I would like to start studying in September in a 2-year course leading to an LLM degree. I was just informed by the university, that in order to study I need to change from a diplomatic visa to a work visa. Is it true?

  101. Dear Gary,
    I have just gotten an M visa valid for 2 entries, 90 days each stay, issued in Buenos Aires. I have 2 prior F visas issued in Buenos Aires, and I previously did some renewals in Beijing. Is it possible to extend the M visa after the second entry in Beijing??
    Thank you in advance

  102. Dear Gary,

    My daughter is 17 and wants to take a gap year after secondary school. She has recently received an offer to teach english at a chinese secondary school for a year. The school says she should apply for an F-visa and they would help her get a temporary work resident permit once she is in China. I wonder whether this would be legal and what the minimum age for a work permit in China is?

    Best regards,

    1. John,

      See Q.13 above. A 17-year old foreign national can’t secure permission to work in China as a teacher because she lacks the required bachelor’s degree and two years post-graduate experience (or a TEFL certificate as an alternative to the experience). Maybe she could consider coming as a Chinese student?

  103. Dear Gary,

    For the past 10 years my company has recruited intern from overseas on a 2 x 90 days visa. However, last week we ran into difficulties, as the regulations have been changed yet again: We’ve learned that interns now must obtain working permits, i.e. have two years of working experience after they graduate from university – people with this kind of experience usually aren’t willing to work as interns…
    Do you know any legal way around this?

    It seems to me China decided to simply not accept foreign interns – I’ve also learnt that they capped the number of foreign interns in China to 1/5 of the original.


  104. Dear Gary,

    Can I study on a work visa (Z-visa)? I’m working only on the weekend but have a full Z-visa and I want to do something useful with my spare time.

    Thank you and best regards,


  105. I work as an early childhood educator at a center in Chengdu. My employer is a multinational with its PRC headquarters in Shanghai. The company has about 35 centers around the country. It does training of new hires in Shanghai, where most or all initial visa and work permit applications are processed. Similarly, when an individual working in Chengdu has a visa or permit nearing expiration, the passport and work permit are sent to HQ in Shanghai for renewal. In the work permit, the employer is specified as a Shanghai company, and no mention is made of any other location. Recently, there has been some discussion that the company may be acting improperly by not processing permits specifying local residence and employment. Could my work in Chengdu be considered by the Public Security Bureau to be illegal under article 43 of the new exit/entry law. And could my employer also be subject to penalties?

    1. There is a risk that the PSB could determine both the foreign national and employer have committed violations due work outside the authorized geographic area. See Q.12 above.

  106. My U.S. citizen son has been held in detention in the Daxing District of Beijing since May 17th for staying 70 days beyond the expiration of his M (business) visa. He simply misunderstood the law, and the public security bureau’s investigation has found no criminal activity. The PSB states they will report my son, but this keeps getting delayed. I received a call from another detainee who was release relatively quickly by paying for his flight home. In contrast, others’ deportation can be delayed while PSB gathers a group to be deported together at the same time. How can I speed my son’s deportation by arranging to pay for my his flight home?

  107. Lu,

    Having a lawyer (or even friend or relative) on the ground can be helpful to speed the process of purchasing the ticket for the return flight home and communicating with the local public security bureau.

    1. I have purchased his ticket to leave on Thursday based on the U.S. Embassy’s recommendation. I also forwarded the itinerary to the PSB but I am still waiting for confirmation.

  108. Hello Gary,

    I’m from Australia and married to my Chinese national wife. I currently hold a 1 year Resident permit for the purpose of family reunion (renewable every 12 months).

    Is my understanding correct that on this permit I am not allowed to work legally in China? Thanks for your time.

    1. True. See Q.12 above, which mentions that the Exit-Entry Administration Law authorizes work only by foreign nationals with an employment license and work-type residence permit.

  109. Dear Gary,

    Is it possible for my employer to cancel my residence permit without me present?

    I have finished work and already left that city, and they want me to return and sign some documents so they can cancel it, but I have other plans.

    However, I had also planned to leave China and come back, also to travel, on the same residence permit, but now I am worried that it will be cancelled in my absence.

    Any information or advice you have would be much appreciated.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Sam,

      Your question deserves a detailed answer, but right now I’m going to address just one part, which may be time sensitive: If you have a residence permit for work but your employment has terminated, you’re not eligible to use that residence permit to enter China. One ground for refusal of admission mentioned above is that “the foreign national may engage in activities in China inconsistent with his or her visa classification.” If you’re planned activities don’t include work, then you’re not eligible to enter with the residence permit for work. You may want to rethink your travel plans.

  110. Dear Gary,

    I am currently in a dispute with my Chinese employer about costs regarding visa processing. They claim that I owe them money. I heard that with the recent changes to visa policy, they can prevent me from leaving the country. Is this true?


    1. A PRC employer doesn’t unilaterally have the power to prohibit a foreign national from leaving the country. However, as mentioned in Q.34 above, if a foreign national is involved in a civil case which has not been closed and the People’s Court has decided that he or she must not leave the country, the court may issue an order prohibiting departure.

  111. Dear Gary

    I will go to Shanghai at the beginning of September with a X2 visa and staying there till January 2015. I read that I need to register with the police after my arrival but wonder what kind of documents I need to bring. I have an airbnb booking for the month of September and will most probably stay there for the rest of the time as well but my name is obviously not mentioned in the rental contract. Do you think it’s ok to bring a written and signed confirmation by the tenant that I live with them?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  112. Hi! I’m currently debating whether or not to apply for a new passport as my current passport is pretty full. I am about to go to China for a job, and as I understand it, I will receive a Z visa, which will then allow me to secure a residence permit upon arrival in China. Will the residence permit replace the Z visa (i.e. will it appear on the same page?), or should I expect the residence permit to take another page?

  113. Hi,

    My family (wife and son) and I are going to Shanghai for 3 months. Since I will be working, I will apply for a Z visa. My family will then apply for S2 visas. All documents needed, such as alien employment license and governmental invitation letter has been issued.

    I know that the Z visa will be issued as a single entry visa, valid for 30 days, during which I must apply to the Public Security Bureau for a residence permit. How does it work for my family? Will they also need to apply for residence permits?

    Thank you,

    1. S2 visa holders are allowed to remain in China for the duration of stay shown on their visas, which may be up to 180 days but should be not longer than your intended period of employment. No residence permit application to the PSB is required.

  114. I’m getting conflicting information regarding passport validity. Hopefully you know the answer. My US passport expires next year in June. However I have plans to visit the US in January and Thailand in February. I’ve heard that I may not be allowed back into Beijing unless my passport is valid at least 6 months beyond my travel. Is this true? I’m currently on a student visa and it is valid up until my passport expires next year. Thank you for any information.

    1. Steve:

      The PRC Foreign Ministry’s rule that visa applicants must have passports valid for at least 6 months. Although the U.S. State Department says there’s an additional PRC rule that “to enter China, you need six months’ validity remaining on your passport,” to the best of my knowledge that is not accurate and is not required in practice.

      1. For Steve Kang – you also need to have a passport that is valid for 6 mos to enter Thailand. If your passport expires in June and you are going to Thailand in Feb you will have trouble. I suggest that you renew your passport now in China at a US Embassy or Consulate (get online and make an appointment – not difficult) and have your school help you with your visa/residence permit. Be sure to talk to the person in your school that handles visa/residence permits before you do anything. If you don’t get a new passport now then you’d better plan to stay in China over the holiday!

    2. Dear Steve,

      What was your experience? I am in a similar situation and it would be very helpful to know if you encountered any problems.

  115. What are the options for Digital Nomads?

    I recently set up a Limited company in Hong Kong. The business is entirely conducted online and there are no agreements (formal or otherwise) with PRC companies/organizations etc. In fact, there are no agreements with any entity. The company simply sells copies (of the software it builds) to the end user.

    There a no employees. Just me the founder/director. I typically spend 1-3 months in each country and conduct my business online. Then move to another country, wash a repeat. The purpose for being in any country is entirely unrelated to business activity.

    I’m wondering if China is a valid option? If so how?

    1. GY,

      If you’re a digital nomad, then the question is whether China is a good oasis at which to stop.

      Essentially what you seek to do is to work online in China for 1-3 months for a foreign company with no presence in the country besides you.

      The Labor Department order cited in Q.7 above indicates that no work visa is required if (a) a labor contract is concluded with a legal entity abroad, (b) the source of compensation is abroad, and (c) the work in China is for under 3 months. You don’t mention whether you’ve entered in to a labor contract with your Hong Kong company, but you may well meet the other requirements.

      Then, assuming you don’t need a work visa, you still need an appropriate visa to conduct your planned activities in China. For example, if you plan to come here for tourism, you may qualify for an L tourist visa, and some amount of activities related to your foreign work would be allowed. In other words, many tourists answer emails and take calls related to their foreign work while they are on vacation, and the government understandably tolerates this. Another example would be to apply for an M business visa, if there is a Chinese company that invites you to do some business. In the case of the L or M visa, you may or may not receive a multiple-entry visa and a 90-day period of authorized stay in China. If not, you may need to apply for an extension of stay, reenter, or even apply for a new visa and then reenter to continue your stay.

      In sum, the Labor Department order creates a framework for a digital nomad to come to China for under three months without liability for illegal work, but you still need to plan to perform some additional activities that will qualify you to enter in a recognized visa category such as L or M.

  116. Hi Gary,

    I was granted a 1 year M class visa w/ 90 day multiple entries in July. The invitation letter stated I was visiting a company in Anshan, Liaoning Province, to facilitate their relationships with foreign-based potential clients. The letter states that my room and board and travel expenses will be reimbursed.

    In fact, I’ve been doing a sales/marketing internship for that company and they’ve compensated me in a different way than described in their invitation letter. I didn’t sign a contract with this company, and really there’s no paperwork linking us except for the invitation letter I originally received.

    They have decided they want to now make this a 6 month internship. I’d like to use this time to look for employment in China. What are my visa options?

    1. Dear Intern,

      As discussed above in Q.15, the law is unsettled, but the local public security bureau (PSB) may interpret your “internsip” as unauthorized employment, in which case there is some level of risk that you may be subject to penalties (fine and/or detention), detention for investigation, deportation, and refusal of future visas. You may want to consider reducing the risk by terminating the arguably unlawful employment and restricting your activities to those which are clearly lawful with an M visa (e.g., visiting for business or commerce). My purpose isn’t to scare you but just to make sure you understand clearly the risks you’ve assumed, perhaps unknowingly. While sometimes such activities go undetected by the PSB, our firm has been contacted by many individuals who have been penalized in similar circumstances.

      If you’re interested in pursuing lawful employment in China, check the local rules in the place where you find a job offer in order to determine whether you meet the minimum qualifications, such as age, education, and experience.

  117. Hello Mr. Chodorow,

    My wife and I are safe and secure on our family and work visas, respectively, in part because of this FAQ. It took 3 countries and a number of flights, but it all worked out.Thank you for keeping this post active and for continuing to respond!

  118. Hi Gary,

    Our company is the Chinese subsidiary of a German company. We would like to have some German interns in China, but we find it a bit unclear as to which visa path to choose. We were considering getting them here on a M visa, with ‘training’ or ‘business visit’ as the purpose of visit in the invitation letter. However, after I read your article, it is my understanding that it would be better for us to organise an internship contract between the interns and our German subsidiary first, and then get them here on an M visa. Is that correct?
    I would really appreciate your feedback on this.

    Many thanks,

    1. Anna,

      As mentioned above in Q15, there are legal risks to a company that arranges internships for foreigners in China without residence permits for study and permission from the PSB for the internship. Strategies and ways to mitigate risks turn on the specific facts. Your company may want to arrange a legal consultation with a qualified immigration lawyer.

  119. Hello Gary,

    I have one of the new 10 year tourist L visa. I am currently in China and my 60 day ‘duration of each stay’ will be over at the end of the month. I am hoping to continue traveling in mainland China and wanted to check if traveling from mainland China to Hong Kong and then back into mainland China would suffice the requirement of exiting and then reentering the country. Also, I would like to know how long I a required to stay in Hong Kong before returning to the mainland. Your response is greatly appreciated!

  120. Hi Gary

    Thank you for this very instructive blog.
    Is it possible to get a Z visa for a foreigner with a foreign labor contract and foreign source of remuneration, so basically working remotely for a company located overseas, not doing business with China but possibly doing so in the future and living in Shanghai as permanent resident (through his/her spouse’s working visa) ?

    Thank you in advance for your help

  121. Hi Gary

    Very instructive post, thank you !

    I tried to post this yesterday but I don’t see it online so bear with me if it shows up twice…
    Is it possible to work legally in PRC being foreigner with a foreign labor contract and foreign source of remuneration ? My wife being employed by a China Shanghai based company (I am assuming visa Z) and therefore permanent residency for my as well.
    Can I get a Z visa too (the one I think I would need in order to work – even if remotely – legally while living in Shanghai), even if not employed by a Chinese company ?

    Thank you in advance

  122. Dear Gary,

    Great Post! Just a quick question regarding interns and another one regarding kinship.

    Interns: What is your opinion about using a M visa for a 3-4 months internship where the purpose of the internship is reviewing and implementing internal processes. The interns are paid from abroad (not China).

    Kinship: How do you deal with the girl-/boyfriend of the assignee who wants to join the assignee during the long term assignment. When (and if possible) using the S1, how do you proof kinship (e.g. they live together, but without marriage or official partnership registration)?

    Thank you.

  123. Hi Gary:

    Lets say I get the admission in 2 Years MBA program in China for which I need to get an X1 Visa. I am currently a student in my country and will go to China as a student. I know how to get Visa for that.

    But the question is that I want to take my wife with me to China. How is it possible.

    Should i get her enrolled in some program in that university as a student so that she can also go with me as a student and we can live there together. I can get her admission in the Chinese Language programs.

    Or is it possible that once i get confirmation about my admission in China in MBA program she can go with me as my wife and live with me there till the time I study in China.

    Please help me what is the solution to this.


  124. Hi Gary,
    I used to live and work in China and hold a residence permit which is due to expire at the end of next month.
    I recently attempted to apply for an M visa – with a duration of 1 year and up to 90 days duration per visit. In support of my application I submitted: my passport, photocopy of my passport bio-page, a completed application form and an Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Unit.
    When submitting, I was told I needed a daily written itinerary for 90days. I said this was not something I was in a position to submit and signed a declaration confirming that I understood I had been advised to submit additional documents but would be submitting without.
    When my passport was returned to me – I had not been issued a visa. I received a “notice of returned application” stating that I needed to provide an itinerary for the 90 days or if I could not provide this doc, that I should be applying for a Z visa.
    I went back to apply again, with a letter stating what I would be doing in China, where I would be visiting and that I would spend between 5 and 14 days in each location. I was again told that this was not sufficient, that the rules had changed in the last two weeks and that I needed to submit a daily itinerary for 90 days. Again I was advised that a short term employment visa might be more appropriate. I can’t find anything on the Internet about any recent changes – can you shed any light on this please?
    Also, my residence permit is still valid and has not been cancelled – is there any reason I cannot return to China and apply for a Z visa in China? Am I likely to be stopped at immigration because of my failed application? There is no refusal stamp or mark in my passport.

    Any advice or information you might be able to offer me would be very much appreciated – having lived there, I really don’t want to get on the wrong side of the Chinese authorities!!

  125. Hello,

    I will be going to shanghai for an internship next week. I have been granted a 3 month x2 visa, but my internship is for 6 months. how do I go about extending this once I am there?

    Thank you

  126. Hello,

    I will be starting my 6 month internship next week in shanghai but have only been granted a 3 month x2 visa. how should i go about extending this visa once I am there?

    Thank you

  127. Did the S visa rues changed very recently? It used to be for “visiting family and friends” and now it is only for visiting family (who are foreigners). At this date last year it was still ok to get friends to invite you. My most recent visa (S2) was issued a year ago based on an invitation letter from my girlfriend’s mother. As we are not married, this seems to be impossible now as I do not qualify for the Q2 visa either.

  128. I’m from Nigeria. I’m currently in China for business . I’ve got 30 days M visa , and had extended it for another 30 days which expires on February 15th 2015 . I want to extend again another 1 month so i can be around to witness the Chinese New Year Festival . I did my 1st extension in Hangzhou city . Now i wanna extend again and i’m out of options . I can’t use the same company i used before to extend again , and other little companies i buy goods from don’t have all the required document/certificate to backup my extension . Please, any advise on how to extend just another 1 month without exiting china ? . Please help me .

  129. If my position is a hairstylist and I don’t hold any high qualification and current hair-salon company in China would like to employ me . Will the application for Z working permit is difficult to approve because I’m not expert labor category .
    thank you.

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