China is a land of rules and regulations, often making processes rather long and tedious— especially when it comes to receiving and renewing visas. Since China is not a part of the Visa Waiver program, you as a foreigner (or alien), must pay special attention to the different types of visas needed for different purposes, at which occasions you will need or do not need a visa, and the nationality of the passport you are holding.
For touring or visiting
Alien visitors must acquire a visa to fly in China unless they are passport holders from Singapore, Brunei, and Japan, who of which are allowed to be in China for up to 15 days. With a tourist visa, the maximum days of duration is 90 days. If you wish to an extension for your stay, apply for a new one at the Exit/Enter department of local public security authorities one week prior to expiration. For transit flights, a new regulation has been in place, stating that transit passengers holding passports from 51 visa-exempt countries are allowed to stay for up to 72 hours without visa on direct transit via specific airports. If you wish to leave the airport within those 72 hours, you must request permits to the carrier airlines before-hand in order for them to notify the airport customs before landing. Consequences vary on the circumstance if you violate the laws mentioned above. Double check if you booked tickets to your final destination, for that is the safest way to ensure no punishment and stay out of trouble.
Typical visas issued for a touring or visiting are:
· G-Visa— for transits to China.
· L-Visa— for sightseeing, family visiting, or other private purposes.
· Q-Visa— for family reunions or visiting Chinese residents.
· S-Visa— for private visits (i.e. adoptions, inheritances, divorces, etc.)
For business or education
Visas for business or education can get a little hard to acquire, especially business visas. Typical visas issued for business or educational purposes are:
· C Visa— for performing duties on board an international train, airliner, or other vessel, along with accompanying family members.
· F-Visa— for taking on an internship or exchange programs. The problem with this visa is that not only is it becoming harder to find, but it is also becoming harder to attain mainland and even worse in Hong Kong, where most expats resolve visa issues. Therefore, applicants must have an invitation letter that lists the details of the length and purpose of their stay.
· M-Visa— for engaging in business and trade related activities. Similar to the F visa, the M visa also requires a letter of invitation with the addition of business certificates from the invitee.
· J-1 Visa— for foreign correspondents to reside in China.
· J-2 Visa— for foreign correspondents to make short trips to China for reporting stories.
· R-Visa— for aliens so highly-skilled and extremely talented that China desperately needs them to stay due to short supply of Chinese.
· X-Visa— for students who expect to spend their studies in China for more than six months.
· Z-Visa— for foreigners expecting to establish a career in China or showcase an entertainment performance.
For permanent residence
In order to permanently reside in China, you must receive the Certificate of Permanent Residence of Aliens, which ensures your permanent residence in Shanghai plus visa-free entrance and exit of China (as long as you obtain a valid passport.) For aliens under the age of 18, the validation of this certificate lasts five years while for those over the age of 18 enjoy 10 years.
Obtaining a visa for temporary visits to China can usually be done at the visa office of the Chinese embassy or at the Chinese consulate. The process is of acquiring a permanent visa is a whole lot easier than that of a permanent visa. The process varies from country to country but the application process typically all you need to do is complete the visa application form, submit it to the embassy, pick up your visa on a specific date, and pay the visa fees.
Now obtaining a visa for permanent residence can get a little tedious. The application process is similar to that of work/student/tourist visas except the applications are put into the work of different hands. The public security administration of municipal people's government handles the applications; the public security administrations of various provinces, autonomous regions, or municipalities directly under the Central Government examines and verifies the applications; lastly, the Ministry of Public Security examines and approves (or disapproves) the applicant for permanent residence. Applicants who are unmarried and under the age of 18 can either apply for permanent residence in person or entrust a third-party to submit the application. Of course, nothing comes free in China— fees for application cost 1,500 RMB per person and 300 RMB per Foreigner's Permanent Residence Permit, which generally takes the public security authority around six months to make their approval or rejection decision.