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Visa, Visa, Whos Got the Visa?


After a summer of confusion, China's new visa regulations went into effect on September 1st. New visa categories have been added and requirements for some existing categories have been changed.

What triggered these changes?

As the number of foreigners coming to China to live and work has increased sharply in recent years, the inadequacy of the existing regulations became more apparent, and the so-called "gray zone" became larger and larger.

This, along with recent incidents of foreigners engaged in criminal activities, prompted the revisions to the law. According to Gary Chodorow of the US and China Law Blog (speaking on a podcast), the PSB specifically was concerned with cracking down on what they called the "san fei" (three illegals): illegal entry; illegal work; and illegal overstays.

What are the categories now?

The following is a list of all of the visa categories. The new categories are M, Q, R, and S, and X2.

C Visas (Crew)

D Visas (Permanent Residents)

F Visas (Short term exchanges, visits, study tours)

G Visas (transit)

J Visas (Journalists)

L Visas (Tourism)

M Visas (Business or Commerce)

Q1 Visas (Family Members of PRC Citizens or Permanent Residents Coming to Reside in China)

Q2 Visas (Relatives of PRC Citizens or Permanent Residents Coming to Visit China)

R Visas (High level Talent)

S1 Visas (Certain Relatives of Foreign Workers or Students in Chinamore than 180 days)

S2 Visas (Certain Relatives of Foreign Workers or Students in China less than 180 days)

X1 Visas (Long-term Students)

X2 Visas (Short-term Students)

Z Visas (Work)

The US and China Visa Law Blog has an excellent summary and analysis of the new regulations, including a detailed description of each new category.

New regulations such as these often provoke consternation among foreigners working in China (legally or otherwise). We often fuss about the weakness of laws and regulations that create large grey zones until we realize that we can happily live in the grey. Then, when these grey zones begin to shrink, we say, "wait a minute!"

These new regulations will make securing a visa easier for some, but will no doubt make it more difficult for others. They are also a good reminder that living in China as a foreigner is not a right, but a privilege.

For more on the new visa regulations:

FAQ on China's New Exit-Entry Administration Law and Regulations (Updated Sept. 1, 2013) (US and China Visa Law Blog)

Official notice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (scroll down for English)

"All About Visas": Podcast by the Economic Observer (US and China Visa Blog)

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio