A look at the different types of visas expats can get, in order to visit China long term. If you are considering teaching English in China, make sure you get the right visa.
Visas are required by everyone. Nationals of the following are visa free: Japan, Singapore, Brunei, San Marino, Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Bahamas.
Applying is done at the nearest Chinese embassy to your location (it doesn’t have to be your home country). Bring passport-sized photos and supporting documents (which must have been arranged previously). Make sure your passport is valid for at least 12 months, and has a minimum of two blank pages.
There are four types of visas that are relevant for most cases. For a full listing plus downloadable application forms, check out the China Embassy website.
Types of China Visas
Tourist Visa (L visa): Can be issued for 30 or 60 days, a single, double or multiple entry. A round-trip flight confirmation is mandatory.
Business Visa (F/M): F visas are for those on unpaid exchanges (science, education, sport, etc). M visas are for those coming for business purposes. Both last for 30, 60 or 90 days. To get either type of visa, you must have an invitation letter from your host. That letter must have your host’s signature, contact details and personal seal.
Student Visa (X1/ X2): X1 is for those who plan to study in China for longer than 180 days; X2 is for less than 180 days. For both, the visa holder must apply for a Temporary Residence Permit within a month of entering the country. A copy of the admission notice from a Chinese school is required to get the visa. To get a residence permit once inside China, someone from your school’s Foreign Affairs Office will take you to the police station to get it done.
Work Visa (Z): these are for people in China to work legally. It is only valid for 30 days. Before it expires, the visa holder must apply for a Temporary Residence Permit. These usually last one year.
To get a Z visa, your employer must be legally accredited to employ foreigners. At the start of the process, they will send you a government-issued Employment Permit and a Visa Notification Letter. Submit both when you apply for your visa.
Note that the age limit is 18-60 for males and 18-55 for females, with no exceptions. For people coming to China to teach, note that minimum requirements are at least a Bachelor’s degree and two years of verifiable work experience.