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China: New Visa Rules Passed

(Aug. 26, 2013) On July 12, 2013, the State Council promulgated a set of new rules governing the entry of foreigners into the People’s Republic of China, the Regulations on the Administration of the Entry and Exit of Aliens. Upon entering into effect on September 1, 2013, the Regulations will replace the existing Rules for the Implementation of the Law on Administration of the Entry and Exit of Aliens. (Text of the Regulations [in Chinese], Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China website (July 22, 2013).)

The State Council had previously published a draft of the Regulations to solicit public opinions on the document. The Regulations were made in accordance with the new “unified” Law on the Administration of Exit and Entry, which regulates the exit and entry of both Chinese citizens and foreigners. The Law took effect on July 1, 2013. (Laney Zhang, China: New Visa System Proposed, Public Opinions Being Solicited, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (May 20, 2013).)

Under the new Regulations, an “R” visa designed to attract foreign talent has been added into the new system. The current business visa, the “F” visa, will be issued to visitors coming to China for non-commercial official visits; an “M” visa has been added for business and trade purposes. Tourists will still apply for an “L” visa, while overseas Chinese holding foreign passports may obtain a new “Q” visa for home visits, with which they may be granted a longer stay than ordinary tourists. The “dependent visa” proposed in the draft was not retained in the final version; spouses, parents, children under 18, and spouses’ parents may obtain a new “S” visa for purposes of accompanying foreigners who reside in China for work, study, or other purposes or those coming to China for other personal matters. (Regulations, art. 6, supra.)

Here is an updated table comparing the ordinary visas under the old visa rules with those in the final version of the new Regulations:

Chinese Visas under Old Rules Chinese Visas under New Regulations
C visa Crew visa, issued to crew members performing duties on board an international train or aircraft, and their accompanying family members. C visa Issued to international train crew members; international aircraft crew members; crew members of ships on international voyages who perform crew services, aviation, or shipping tasks as well as the accompanying family members of the ship’s crew; and drivers of vehicles for international road transport.
D visa Resident visa, issued to permanent residents D visa No significant changes found.
F visa Business visa, issued to persons invited to give lectures or for official visits; for purposes of business, scientific, technological, or cultural exchanges; or for short-term studies or internships lasting less than six months. F visa Issued for purposes of exchanges, visits, observational trips, and other activities [see below, M visa, for new business visa].
G visa Transit visa. G visa No significant changes found.
J visa Journalist visa, issued to foreign journalists. J1 visa Issued to resident foreign journalists.
J2 visa Issued to foreign journalists for short–term stays.
L visa Tourist visa, issued to persons entering China for tourism, to visit relatives, or for other private purposes. L visa Generally the same, but with a “group” L visa added for tourists traveling in groups.

M visa New business visa, issued for purposes of business and trade activities.

Q1 visa Family reunion visa, issued to family members of Chinese citizens or permanent residents, including children left in China to be taken care of by Chinese relatives.
Q2 visa Issued to relatives of Chinese citizens and foreigners with permanent residency, for short-term visits.

R visa Issued to foreign professionals who are highly skilled or whose skill is urgently needed by China.

S1 visa Issued to spouses, parents, children under 18, and spouses’ parents who apply for long-term residence to accompany foreigners who reside in China for work, study, or other purposes, or to accompany foreign personnel who need to reside in China for other personal reasons.
S2 visa Issued to family members who apply for a short-term stay in China to visit foreigners staying or residing in China for work, study, or other purposes, or to visit foreign personnel who need to stay in China for other personal reasons.
X visa Student visa, issued to students and others coming to China for training or internship for a period of six months or more. X1 visa Issued for long-term study.

X2 visa Issued for short-term study.
Z visa Employment/work visa, issued to foreign workers and their accompanying family members. Z visa Issued to foreign workers.

Most visa holders will also need to apply for a residence permit from the local public security bureaus within 30 days of entry into the country, according to the Law on the Administration of Exit and Entry. The Regulations prescribed five types of residence permits: work, study, journalist, reunion, and personal reason, together with their respective required supporting documentation. (Regulations, arts. 15 & 16, supra.)