When you make up your mind about your career in China, it’s time to consider getting a Chinese work visa.
Generally, requirements for obtaining it are more or less similar for applicants from all over the world.
Yet, some differences are noticed from country to country.
The differences are determined by forms of governments as well as the relationship between your country and China.
So, do you need a VISA to China from the USA?
Then, you want to keep something in mind.
No need to mention that American states have different laws.
While the majority of them are the same for all American citizens, some vary due to peculiarities of this or that state.
The same goes for visa matters. The main rules for obtaining a Chinese visa are the same but some differ from state to state.
Keep reading our guide to find out the details of Chinese visa requirements.
Can I legally work in China with a Tourist, Business or Student visa?
Although there is a special visa that allows you to carry out work activities in China, some employers and companies are ready to cooperate with foreigners who come to the country via other visa types.
For example, a business visa is the one that allows you to work in China for a period of three months.
Anyway, if you’re planning to work in China as an English teacher for a long period of time, it’s better to apply for a Z visa.
China Work Visa Requirements & Documents
The main visa requirements for US citizens don’t differ much from those for citizens of other countries.
No matter what type of visa you’re going to apply for, there are general and additional demands.
The former ones include:
- Your passport should be valid for 6 months since the day you arrive in China. Plus, there must be two blank pages for visas and customs stamps.
- One photocopy of the passport information page should be attached, too.
- China visa photo requirements imply that the passport photo is of 33mm x 48mm size. Keep in mind that your head shouldn’t be covered on the photo. It’s also important not to wear sunglasses or anything that hides your face. Finally, the background should be white.
- The filled application form that can be downloaded from the site or taken at the Chinese embassy must be handed in. Note: if you’re applying for a visa in Los Angeles, you’ll need a different application form. Although it’s almost the same as the standard one, it still differs a bit, so only this form can be accepted.
As for the additional Z visa requirements, they are the following:
- You have to submit an invitation letter from the company or school you plan to work for.
- Working permit that allows you to do professional activity in China should be provided.
- If you apply for a work visa in Washington DC or San Francisco embassy, you’ll also need to submit a proof of residence.
- Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, and Texas are required to fill in a job description form if they’re currently employed.
How long does it take to get a Chinese Visa?
Once you apply for a visa at the Chinese embassy, you can expect to have it done during 4 working days.
The day when you submit all the documents is considered as the first day.
Keep in mind that the embassy might not work during Chinese national holidays.
One more thing you want to know is that it’s possible to get your visa ready faster than four days.
If there’s a need, you can pay an extra fee to obtain your visa in two days or even on the following day after application.
How much does a Chinese Work Visa cost?
For American citizens (on condition they apply for a visa from the USA), it costs 140 $.
This is the price for the service that implies processing your application at a normal pace.
You pay this money at an embassy/consulate before you collect your visa.
In case you want to speed the process up, be ready to pay more.
It’s a sensible decision to specify how much money you’re going to pay at the beginning of the application process.
How long is the duration of stay of Chinese Z visa?
Z visa itself only gives you a chance to enter China.
For this reason, it is valid for 30 days.
You might ask how you can work in China for a long period of time if an employment visa is valid for only one month.
The thing is that once you come to China, you have to get a resident permit.
This document substitutes your visa and allows you to stay in the country for as long as your work contract requires.
When should I apply for a Chinese visa?
General advice for visa applicants is to do it approximately one month before the date you arrive in China.
This period is considered to be the most appropriate since it will be enough to prepare your visa even if some holidays take place.
You’ll also be able to solve any problems (if you face them) during this time.
However, you want to remember that different states (consequently, different Chinese consulates) have different rules.
For example, if you apply for a visa in San Francisco, you can do it 90 or 180 days before leaving for China.
It depends on the type of visa – single-entry or double-entry. Those applying for a visa earlier than 180 days will be rejected.
So, if you aren’t sure when you have to apply for your visa, call a Chinese embassy in your area to find out.
Where can I get a working permit for China?
A working permit is a document that proves the goals of your visit to China.
This document is provided by your employer so you won’t bother going to different institutions in order to get it.
The only thing you need to do is send the package of documents required for obtaining the permit to the school/company where you intend to work.
The list of papers includes your passport copy, recent passport photo, a medical form, criminal record check, bachelor’s degree, and TEFL certificate (if your school asks for it).
Before submitting the abovementioned documents, you need to go through the process of legalizing them in the Chinese embassy.
We’ve come up with useful tips and a step-by-step process on how to go through documents legalization for Work Z Visa when it comes to different policies with certain countries. Check the guide by this link:
What is the age limit for the Z visa application?
In most cases, a China visa for U.S. passport holders is given to people aged 18 – 60.
This is the requirement of the Chinese government for applicants all over the world, not only for America.
But it’s also possible to go beyond this limit.
For example, in Shanghai, the Chinese authorities allow a person who is older than 60 years to come and work in China if they acknowledge him/her as a foreigner of high talent.
What are the different types of Chinese Visas (and the additional requirements for getting them)?
Chinese visas are divided into 12 types and imply different kinds of activities foreigners can carry out in China. Here is the list.
Permanent residence (D)
The visa is given to people who want to live in China on a permanent basis.
To get this visa, you also need to address to the Ministry of Public Security of China to get the Confirmation Form for Foreigners Permanent Residence Status.
Once you do it, you have to submit the original and the photocopy of this document together with other documents.
Crew member (C)
If you work on an international aircraft, train, ship, or work as a driver in a company that provides international transportation services, you need this visa type.
C category visa is also issued to the family members who travel with crew staff.
You need either an invitation letter or a letter of guarantee provided by the international company you work for.
If you work in a foreign news company and are going on a business trip (for a long or short period of time), you’ll need J visa.
There are two types:
- J1 visa for a long-term stay
- J2 visa for a short-term stay
Be sure you have an official letter from the media company you work for.
Plus, it’s necessary to get a Visa Notification Letter in the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.
Transit visa is given to people who travel through China when the country isn’t their final destination.
However, you might not even need a G visa in case transit takes place in specific Chinese cities and lasts no longer than 72 or 144 hours.
If you do need to get a transit visa, be ready to have an onboard ticket to your final destination close at hand.
Exchange, visits, study tours or other relevant activities (F)
Whether you go to China for the purpose of academic, cultural, or religious exchange, volunteering, or similar activity, F visa is what you need.
You should have an invitation letter.
Commercial trade (M)
This visa is given to those who go to China in order to carry out some commercial activities.
You should have an invitation letter from the trading company you’re cooperating with.
No need to mention, this visa is given to people who go to China as tourists, either alone or with group or people.
In order not to allow people from other countries to stay in China illegally, Chinese visa rules require that you have the following documents:
- Return plane ticket with dates and surnames (copy)
- Chinese hotel booking with dates and surnames (copy)
- An invitation letter if you stay at your friend’s home
- Sometimes, you’ll need bank documents that confirm your financial background
Foreigner of high talent or specialist (R)
R visa is given to people who can benefit China. They might be scientists, politicians, or other genius people who can have a positive influence on China development.
As ‘talent’ is quite a vague notion, people might be asked to have very different documents with them. But in general, these are certifications that prove their skills.
Family reunion (Q)
This visa is issued to relatives of Chinese citizens (or foreigners who have permanent resident status) in case they have some family matters. They can be a reunion or foster care.
There are two types:
- Q1 visa for a long-term stay
- Q2 visa for a short-term stay
If you’re going to stay with your relatives in China for less than 180 days, you need to have an invitation letter with you.
Those who plan to stay longer than 180 days will be required to submit more documents.
Depending on the purpose of the visit, you might need to show marriage, birth, or kinship certificate as well as many more.
The list of documents is large, so it’s better for you to address the Chinese Consular Office in your country and ask which papers you need in your situation.
The purpose of obtaining this visa is quite obvious. Students planning to continue their education in China need X visa.
There are two types:
· X1 visa for a long-term stay
· X2 visa for a short-term stay
If you need to stay in China longer than 180 days, you’ll need to submit a special document from the Chinese Ministry of Education – so-called JW201 (or JW202) form. You might also be required to have a medical certificate.
Personal matters (S)
This type of visa is similar to the type Q. You might need this very visa if you need to visit relatives or friends. If you have some medical care issues in China, you’ll also have to obtain this visa.
There are two types:
- S1 visa for a long-term stay
- S2 visa for a short-term stay
The same as for the type Q visa.
This is the visa you need to obtain if you want to work in China legally.
In addition to all the basic documents, you need to have an invitation (or confirmation) letter from the company you will work for.
Foreigner’s work permit is one more crucial document to have with you.
What is the difference between a Chinese tourist and business visa?
No need to mention that tourist and business visas have different purposes.
A tourist visa is the one that allows you to travel to China for the longest of 30 days.
You need this very visa type if you’ve planned to spend your vacation in China.
Business visa, also known as commercial or trade, is issued to people carrying out any commercial activities on the Chinese territory.
Plus, this visa allows you to work in China legally for a period of three months.
Which visa applies to accompany family members of Z visa applicants?
If there’s a need to accompany or visit a relative who works in China, one should apply for S visa.
Relatives are considered parents, children, siblings, spouses, children’s spouses, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law.
This visa allows people to stay in China for a short or long period of time to resolve their personal matters.
S visa applicants should have an invitation letter as well as provide a document that proves their family relationships with an expat working in China.
Is it possible to apply online?
The rules of getting a Chinese visa imply two possible variants of submitting the documents you need for an application.
You can either hand them in personally or send the papers by post. Thus, online application isn’t possible.
Still, you can use some online services to make the process easier.
For example, you can download the application form from the Internet.
In case you have no chance to apply for a visa in person (e.g. you don’t live in the city where the embassy is), you can ask an agent for help.
The full process of applying for a Chinese Z visa step by step
Once you decide you need a China work visa, you’re going to do the following:
- Collect all the documents required for obtaining the visa. The main of them include your passport, passport copy, a recent photo, filled Chinese visa application, work permit and invitation letter provided by your employer in China.
- Address your local embassy to find out whether you need any additional papers like proof of residence or job description. If you do, make sure you have these documents.
- Go to the Chinese embassy/consulate in your area to submit the papers. If you live in another city, you can ship the papers in order not to travel a long distance on your own.
- Wait until the visa is ready.
- Come to the embassy, pay the visa fee, and collect your passport with visa.
What Visas must be converted into a Resident Permit once I enter China and how to do so?
The visas that imply a long-term stay in China must be converted into a residence permit.
These visas include family reunion (Q), personal matters (S), journalism (J), study (X), and work (Z) types.
Please note that only those visas that imply a stay longer than 180 days should be converted.
To get a residence permit, address the Public Security Bureau (PSB) Exit and Entry Administration that deals with these matters in your location.
Make sure you have all the necessary documents with you.
They include your passport, accommodation registration document (the one you receive when you arrive in China), medical examination results (it also takes place on your arrival), and employment papers.
Can I extend/change my Visa once I enter China?
No matter how thoroughly you plan your trip, force majeure can happen at any moment.
Taking the possibility of unexpected life circumstances into account, the Chinese government allows foreigners to extend or change their employment visa if need be.
If you understand that you need to do this, address the Entry/Exit Bureau in China and explain your situation.
But keep in mind that there is a chance of visa extension/change rejection.
What happens if I overstay my Visa?
One of the most widespread penalties for overstaying your visa in China is fines.
You are charged 500 RMB for every day of extra stay.
The maximum sum of the fine is 10,000 RMB that equals 20 days of overstay.
If you stay in China illegally longer than 20 days, you can be sent to a detention camp or deported. You may also be forbidden to enter China for the following 10 years.
Moreover, overstaying your visa may have other consequences that will make your life in China not so comfortable than before.
By this, we mean that hotel, train station, and airport staff can refuse to provide you services if they notice your visa has expired.
Why does my Chinese work visa application gets rejected?
- In case there is wrong information in your application. Whether you decide to hide something or describe something better than it is in real life, this will be considered as a lie to the Chinese government and your visa to China will be rejected.
- If you don’t have all the required documents at hand or they aren’t notarized, your visa is likely to be refused.
- A handwritten application form isn’t accepted by the Chinese embassy. That’s why you want to type in all the information on the computer.
- One more requirement that concerns the application form is that it must be single-sided.
- Pay close attention to the photograph you submit. If it is of a wrong size or is printed on low-quality photo paper, your visa application is also rejected.
As a rule, the consular officer doesn’t explain the reasons for visa rejection. So make sure every requirement for getting your visa is met.
Contacts of Chinese embassies in the United States
There is one Chinese embassy in the USA that is located in Washington DC.
There are also five Chinese consulates in the following states: New York, Illinois, California, and Texas.
2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 301
Washington DC, DC 20007
131 West 33rd St. Suite 10-B
New York, NY 10001
500 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 538
Chicago, IL 60611
3200 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 901
Los Angeles, CA 90010
1610 Post Street, Suite 303
San Francisco, CA 94115
711 W. Alabama St.
Houston, TX 77006
All offices are open 9 am – 5 pm.
If you want to get some information online, you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.