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A Breakdown of China's New Visa Rules

As you may have heard, there have been rumors floating around regarding the changes to China's visa system that will take effect July 1st. These changes are apart of the new Exit and Entry Law which was adopted by the National's People Congress last June. The new regulations are aimed to address the illegal stay and illegal employment of foreigners here in China. The most relevant alterations include four new ordinary visa types including a "foreign professional" or "R" visa which will be valid for up to five years and a "M" visa which will replace the function of the current "F" business visa.  We will also be seeing stricter fines for breaking immigration laws as well as stricter enforcement of residence permits.

We've mapped out some of the major changes below and spoke with Magic Cheng, a visa consultant from VisaInChina Agency, to give us more insight into the new laws. The better we understand the new system, the better we can navigate it.

New Ordinary Visa Types

Visas for China are divided into four categories; diplomatic visas, courtesy visas, service visas, and ordinary visas. Under the new Entry and Exit law, the number of types of ordinary visas will increase from eight to twelve. Here is our breakdown of the new additions. If your curiousity is still burning, check out this article from The Law Library of Congress.

  • M Visa- Issued for business/commerical visits
  • R Visa- Issued for highly skilled foreign professional stays and visits
  • Q Visa- Issued for family reunions and foreigners visiting Chinese citizen (Q1) & permanent residents (Q2)
  • S  Visa-  Issued for private visits such as divorce, inheritance, adoption, marriage, or medical services

Changes to Current Ordinary Visa Types

While some visas such as the tourist (L) visa will see no change, certain visa types already in place will be divided into different subcategories. The F visa will see a major revamp.

  • Z Visa- Issued for employment or work purposes. Under the new system, it will be split into Z1 (over than 90 days) and Z2 (less than 90 days)
  • X Visa- Issued for student or internship purposes for six months for now. Under the new system will be split into X1 (long-term) and X2 (short-term)
  • F Visa- Issued for business purposes. Under the new system will be issued for non-commerical purposes

M is the new F

To make matters even more confusing and complicated, the M visa will be the new business visa. It will be issued to foreigners visiting China for business or trade purposes.The F visa (the business visa under the pre July 1st system) will become a non-business visa and will be issued to foreigners visiting China for non-commerical visits (scientific, educational, cultural, health or sports).

Attracting New Talent

Under the new system, the R visa will be used to attract foreign talent. While it is a bit unclear as to what constitutes this type of talent, the visa will be issued to high-ranked and in-demand professional talent. It is an incentive to bring in highly-skilled, specialized workers. R1 will be the long term visa, allowing a stay of up to five years and will include a residency permit. The R2 visa will serve highly skilled specialsits for stays less than 180 days.

Stay & Residence in China

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.

After finishing our own research, we reached out to VisaInChina to get additional clarification from their visa consultant, Magic Cheng.



CW: What are some of the major changes we will see?   

MC:  The Penalty. Now if you break the immigration laws, the penalty you face is much higher than before. For example, if you forget to register in the police station to get the registration of temporary residence in 24 hrs, before you only needed to pay maximum of 500RMB for the penalty, according to the new laws, they can charge you maximum 2000RMB for the late register.

If you overstayed your visa, before they can charge you 500RMB/day and maximum up to 5000RMB but according to the new laws, they can charge you 500RMB/day and maximum up to 10,000RMB. For the worst case, they can deport you and block you for maximum 5 years.

If you are “illegal employed”, before you only face maximum 5000RMB for the penalty, but according to the new laws, they can charge you maximum 20,000RMB. For worst case, they can deport you and block you for maximum 5 years.

Another thing it mentioned clearly in the new law is that the the immigration office can reject your case without any reason. So now they don’t need to tell you why they reject you. Reject is reject, no why!!

Will tourist visas be able to be renewed up to two times within China like before?
Normally, for the tourist proposal, Chinese government will give you maximum 90 days stay. So it means, if you have 30 days tourist visa now, you can extend it twice, each time 1 month. If you have 60 days stay L visa, then we can only extend it once. If you have 90 days stay L visa, you are not able to get any extension in Shanghai.

What are the changes to length of the business visas?
According to the new laws, for business  visa, the duration of each stay maximum is 180 days so it seems the 12 month continuous stay business visa will disappear.

Will long term (6 months or a year) business visas still be available via Hong Kong?
No, the 6 month or 12 month business visa via Hong Kong (which issued from Shenzhen border) will be suspend for a while after 1st July.

Will the current available duration of stay for tourists be shortened? 

Any other additional information that is important to know regarding the changes?
A: We can see, right now in the new laws, it’s focus on “illegal employment” and “illegal stay” very much, if you break it, the result can be disaster. So please make sure: 1) Don’t overstay your visa and 2) Get the proper visa suitable for your behavior in China. For example, start working after you get your work permit and residence permit.

Still Curious?

If this issue of immigration really has you thinking, you can read a English translation of the regulations at the U.S and China Visa Law Blog by lawyer Gary Chodorow. While it is a heavy and technical read, it will provide you with a closer look at the logistics if you are still interested.



Lawyer Gary Chodorow has very kindly informed us that China's State Council has just published regulations on implementing the new laws. You can find an English translation here and also Gary's own very useful Q&A here.


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