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Report: Public Security Bureau talk on new visa rules for foreigners

BritCham / CBBC
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On 16 October at the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, at an event organised jointly by BritCham, AmCham and AusCham, police officers from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau gave a presentation on the PRC's new exit-entry regulations for foreigners, which came into force on 1 September 2013.

Officer Xu Ruoxin first outlined the basic visa application process, before describing the various types of visa (some of which are new categories or have different definitions). The most common ones are:

1. Z Visa (working)

The procedure is largely the same as before. Applicants require:

  • Passport
  • Temporary residence permit
  • Application form including 2 photos and employer's stamp
  • Employer's registration certification, e.g. business licence
  • Foreigner's employment permit
  • Health certificate (for first-time applicants only) which is valid for six months

The shortest Z visa that can be issued lasts 90 days. If, for example, a foreigner's passport expires while they are in China, they may be issued with a new "stay permit" (停留证) - to be distinguished from the residence permit (居留证) - which will last for two months and allow time for a new passport to be issued.

If the applicant entered China with a visa other than Z, they must provide any relevant documents to prove their credentials to work in China, in line with PRC regulations.

Other types of visa may be changed to a Z visa provided the applicant fulfils the relevant regulations. They must leave China (e.g. go to Hong Kong) and re-enter in order to do this.

2. S1 Visa (private affairs)

This is issued to family members accompanying the holder of a working or student visa in China. Family members are defined as:

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Child under 18
  • Parent-in-law (this is a new category)

The procedure is the same as that for the Z visa, with the exception of the employer's stamp, which the family member applying for an S1 visa does not require.

Certification is required to prove the applicant's relationship to the person they wish to accompany to China, e.g. marriage or birth certificate. This certificate must be validated by a Chinese embassy or consulate in the home country, who will issue a letter to the authorities in China..

NB: Birth certificates are valid for ever having been provided once (as the circumstances of your birth don't change) but marriage certificates are valid for six months only (as your marital status may change).

S1 visas generally last for the same time as the visa of the person whom the applicant is accompanying. This will be a minimum of 180 days.

3. F Visa (visiting)

This applies to foreigners who visit China:

  • for exchange, e.g. governmental
  • to visit someone
  • for inspection

The necessary documents and the application procedure are similar to those listed above, but in addition the applicant requires an official letter from the organisation that invited them. This must be in the form of a standard formal letter and must include:

  • name of the inviting organisation
  • name of invitee
  • duration of stay
  • exit/entry dates
  • exit/entry arrangements
  • a guarantee that expenses will be covered

An official employer's stamp is not necessary, as applicants for F visas will not be employed in China.

4. M Visa (trade)

This is very similar to the F visa. The M visa is principally for business appointments, for example:

  • Contract signing
  • Trading activities
  • Equipment purchase

The F visa, on the other hand, is designed for exchange visits such as annual governmental exchange trips.


  1. Documentation in languages other than English must be translated by a professional translation company or a Chinese embassy or consulate. English documents do not need to be translated.
  2. Documents must be submitted in the original with a photocopy attached. NB: a photocopy is to be distinguished from a duplicate copy. A photocopy is the one that is needed.
  3. Applicants over the age of 60 or the ill and infirm, etc, may entrust someone to submit the application on their behalf. Power of attorney is required for this.
  4. Applications to extend visas should be made up to seven days before their expiry; stay permits within 30 days.
  5. There is no need to wait until the last minute to apply for an extension, as the date of application will not affect the expiry date of the new visa/permit - the extended period will always take effect from the date of expiry of the previous one.
  6. Students in China are likely to be allowed to work part-time provided they register in person at the Public Security Bureau with a letter from their employer. (This regulation is still under revision and not yet in force.)
  7. Fingerprinting will be introduced later; the equipment is not yet ready.
  8. Foreigners may request a receipt with their photograph attached when their application is in process. This will enable them to take trains, planes, etc, while their passport is being held. The applicant should ask staff specifically for this.
  9. There is no facility to speed up the standard process by paying an extra fee. However, under certain stipulated conditions an express process may be offered. Conditions are subject to individual approval and include:
  • Needing to attend a funeral or visit a terminally ill acquaintance
  • Lost passport (fastest service three days). In this case the applicant must leave China and re-enter.
  • Wanting to attend, for example, an overseas conference or meeting while your application is in process (documents such as an invitation letter from the conference organiser, for instance, are required).
  • In the case of foreign students, having to return for exams or the start of term.

NB: Foreign applicants are advised not to book transport tickets until such time as their application is approved, as each case will be assessed on its own merits before being approved. 

More information is available in English on the Public Security Bureau's website at http://www.bjgaj.gov.cn/eng/index.jsp.

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