Visitors to the People's Republic of China must obtain a visa from one of the Chinese diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries. Special administrative regions – Hong Kong and Macau – maintain independent visa regimes.
A Chinese visa is a permit issued by the Chinese visa authorities (Ministry of Public Security, Chinese embassies, consulates, and other offices authorized by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to a foreigner that authorizes entry into, exit from, or transit through the People's Republic of China. Visa authorities may issue a Diplomatic, Courtesy, Official or Regular Visa to an alien, depending on his/her status and purpose of visit to China, and/or passport type.
Eligible nationalities for visa-free entry
Citizens holding passports issued by the following nations are not required to obtain a visa to travel to China on a trip as long as it lasts no more than the visa waiver limit as listed below.
• Bahamas: 30 days (since February 12, 2014)
• Brunei: 15 days (since July 1, 2003)
• Japan: 15 days (since September 1, 2003)
• Mauritius: 30 days (since October 31, 2013)
• San Marino: 90 days (since July 15, 1985)
• Seychelles: 30 days (since June 26, 2013)
• Singapore: 15 days (since July 1, 2003)
Visa-free transit through international airports
Visas are not required of any foreign passport holders who:
• hold air tickets to a final destination outside China and who have booked seats on international airlines flying directly through China;
• stay in the transit airport for less than 24 hours;
• do not leave the transit airport.
Holders of passports issued by the following countries do not need a visa for a 72 hour visit if they are transiting through the following airports provided they hold valid passports, visas for the onward countries (if required), final destination tickets and have booked onward flight seats, and they visit only that city, municipality or province (Guangdong Province and Zhejiang Province).
• All European Union countries
• Bosnia and Herzegovina
• New Zealand
• South Korea
• United Arab Emirates
• United States
• Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing
• Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu
• Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in Chongqing
• Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport in Dalian
• Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou
• Guilin Liangjiang International Airport in Guilin
• Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport in Hangzhou
• Pudong Airport and Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai
• Shenyang Taoxian International Airport in Shenyang
• Xi'an Xianyang International Airport in Xi'an/Xianyang
Validity, number of entries and duration of each stay of Chinese Visas
Visa Validity ("Enter Before") means that the visa is valid, or can be used for entry into China from the date of issue to the "Enter Before" date indicated on the visa (Beijing Time). If a visa has unused entries, the bearer can enter China before 24:00 (Beijing Time) on the expiration date.
"Entries" refers to the number of times the bearer is permitted to enter China during the validity of a visa.
"Duration of Each Stay" refers to the maximum number of days the visa bearer is permitted to stay in China each time, which is calculated from the date of entry into China.
A foreign citizen who overstays the end date of his/her authorized stay in China without going through extension formalities is subject to fines and other penalties for violation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Control of the Entry and Exit of Aliens and its Detailed Rules for Implementation. If a visa bearer is to stay in China longer than the duration of stay allowed on the visa, approval must be obtained from local public security authorities above the county level before the duration of stay expires. Approval of an extension of stay may or may not be granted. Please check the website of the local public security authorities in China for more information. Chinese Embassies and Consulates overseas are not authorized to extend a visa.
Region-specific visa restrictions
Tibet Autonomous Region
Foreign Passport holders entering Tibet must have a Tibet Travel Permit, issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. This permit will be checked when going on board any buses, trains or airlines that bound for the TAR. However, the only way to obtain a Tibet Travel Permit is to arrange a tour operated by a Tibet travel agent who at least includes hotels and transportation. Foreigners are also not permitted to travel by public buses across Tibet and are only allowed to travel by private transportation as organized in the tour. Moreover, if entering Tibet from Nepal, one must also joined a group tour and be only allowed on a group visa. The Tibet Travel Permit has to be handed in to the tour guide upon arrival inthe airport or train station, and to tour guide will keep the permit until the traveler left the TAR. The Tibet Travel Permit is also required by Taiwanese holding a Taiwan Compatriot Pass, but it is not required for Chinese citizens from Hong Kong or Macao holding a Home Return Permit.