An S1 visa and the corresponding “residence permit for private affairs” are for family members of a foreign national working or studying in China, and the applicant’s intended duration of stay must be more than 180 days.
This article provides an overview of S1 visas / residence permits for private affairs. It is not exhaustive.
- What’s the difference between a visa and a residence permit?
- Only certain “family members” of foreign nationals working or studying in China may apply: you must be the worker or student’s spouse, parent, son or daughter under the age of 18, or parent-in-law.
- If your intended duration of stay is under 180 days, you don’t qualify for an S1 visa or residence permit for private affairs. Consider applying for an S2 visa instead.
Step 1: S1 Visa (签证)
Apply at a PRC embassy, consulate, or other visa-issuing agencies with jurisdiction over your country of citizenship or residence outside Mainland China. (See Will visa runs to Hong Kong or a third country be possible?)
Basic documents for a PRC visa application may include passport, photo, visa application form, visa fee, proof of residence or legal stay for third-country nationals, evidence of name change, photocopy of prior passport with PRC visas, and additional documents for applicants of Chinese descent.
The key supporting documents for an S1 visa include:
- an invitation letter from the worker or student with information about the applicant (full name, gender, date of birth, etc.), the visit (purpose of visit, arrival and departure dates, place of intended residence, relationship between the parties, source of financial support, etc.), and the worker or student (name, contact number, address, signature, etc.).
- a photocopy of the worker or student’s passport and residence permit (if he or she has already entered China). Note that the residence permit must be valid for over 180 days.
- original and photocopy of certification of relationship between the parties (marriage certificate, birth certificate, certification of kinship issued by Public Security Bureau or notarized certification of kinship).
It’s recommended that you apply a month before your planned trip to China. Normal processing time is 4 business days. Expedited service may be available.
An interview may be required. See Who needs an interview at the Chinese Embassy or other visa issuing agency abroad?
Documents required and procedures may vary at each PRC embassy, consulate, or other visa-issuing agency, so which with local authorities.
The visa will be valid for a single entry within 30 days.
Step 2: Residence Permit for Private Affairs (居留证件)
Within 30 days of entering China, apply for a residence permit at the local public security bureau’s entry-exit office.
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 basic documents for a residence permit include passport with S1 visa, application form, filing fee, temporary residence registration form from the local police station, and 2 passport-style photos. In addition, a health certificate from the designated local medical center is required for initial residence permit applicants, unless exempt due to age under local rules (e.g., Beijing exempts applicants under age 18; Shanghai exempts applicants under age 18 or over age 70).
The key supporting documents for a residence permit for private affairs include:
- Copies of your family member’s passport and residence permit for work or study
- Proof of relationship (e.g., marriage certificate or birth certificate). If the certificate is not issued by the Chinese government, it must be authenticated by a PRC consulate in the country of issuance or otherwise comply with local rules (e.g., Beijing and Shanghai will accept a certificate issued by a foreign consulate in China).
- Copies of your family member’s unit’s business license, enterprise code certificate (组织机构代码证), and official invitation letter, if required by local rules (e.g., Shanghai but not Beijing).
- A letter guaranteeing your support and your compliance with PRC laws from your family member, if required by local rules (e.g., Shanghai; Beijing if you entered with a visa other than an S1).
Local rules may require the applicant to apply in person and be interviewed unless specifically exempt.
See here for processing times.
The period of validity of the residence permit will be determined by local rules. In Beijing, the permit will be for the same period of validity as your family member’s residence permit for work or study, provided that it is not shorter than 180 days.
Terms and Conditions of Stay
- Temporary Residence Registration is required at the local police station within 24 hours of entry and upon issuance of the residence permit.
- No work authorization: A person in China with an S1 visa or residence permit for private affairs is not authorized to work. Consider applying for a work-related visa and residence permit.
- Extension of the residence permit: See How early must an application for a visa, stay certificate, or residence permit be filed with the Exit-Entry Administration?