More info on China’s new visa rules

Chinese visaCity Weekend has a fantastic overview of the changes to the Chinese visa system put in place yesterday.

The changes, adopted by the National’s People Congress last June, are primarily to curb illegal stay and illegal employment of foreigners in China. Key points of the changes are:

  • F Visas, for commercial/business visits, are now called M Visas.
  • F Visas are now for short-term, non-commercial purposes (scientific, educational, cultural, health or sports).
  • L Visas, for travel/tourism, largely remains unchanged.
  • Q Visas have been created for family reunions and foreigners visiting Chinese citizens (Q1) & permanent residents (Q2).
  • R Visas have been created for highly skilled professionals.
  • S Visas have been created for private visits (divorce, inheritance, adoption, marriage or medical services).
  • X Visas, the student/internship visas previously issued for 180 days, have been split into X1 (long-term) and X2 (short-term).
  • Z Visas, or work visas, have been split into Z1 (>90 days) and Z2 (<90 days).

The article adds:

Since a major motivator behind the new law is to curb illegal residency as well as employment in China, we are likely to see an increase in the enforcement of residence permits. According to the British Embassy in Beijing, anyone staying in China for longer than 180 days will need a residence permit.

Be sure to check out the post for more details, including a Q&A with Magic Cheng of the well-known VisaInChina service.

Update: Here’s a nice chart that sums everything up. The chart’s information was originally published on the Library of Congress Web site (h/t The World of Chinese).



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  3. A point that rarely gets across to foreigners in China: What’s the difference between a visa holder and a residence holder in China? One is legally allowed to live and work in China, the other is not.

    If you hold a visa in China – any visa, you are not allowed to live and work in China. If you hold a residence permit – you are. It’s really that simple.

    These new laws are aimed at visa holders NOT residents. Using easily obtained visa’ like the F visa in the past to live and work here, updating every 6-12 months. Many have been here for years using this method. This is what is being targeted by these new regulations.

    If you look at the new M class visa you will see that part of the new provision for applying is to provide copies of all previous visa’ in your passport. This is part of the determining process to see who has been using this system, and who has not.

    This is now mandatory. Refusals will be based on past stays in China which have been continuous – a clear method to assess who has been using this system, and who has not.

    Also it is important to remember that registration is now part of ANY visa application. The form itself is now 4 pages as opposed to previously being 2 pages long.

    ALL the changes are targeted at visa holders. The most important of all (which will not dawn on most until it expires) is that after 180 days of continuous stay in China you MUST apply for residence.

    While of course, there will always be those who ‘find a way’ to abuse the system to remain illegally. By my calculations this will directly affect up to 100,000 foreigners currently in China over the next 6 months or so.

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