Getting a Headache when Applying for Chinese Visa

Let me start this blog entry from saying that getting a visa, especially working, is a nightmare in China. It’s so troublesome! All foreigners, no matter what country they come from, have the same problem. I will tell you how frustrated I was when applying for my Z visa and how the whole process looked like, but let me first briefly tell you what actually Z visa is and what documents are required when applying for it.

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Working Visa

The Z (working) visa is required when working in China and being paid for it. All foreign teachers must have Z visa when working as English teachers. If you want to work as a teacher in China, you must have at least a Bachelor’s degree, TEFL TESOL certificate, valid passport and your native language must be English or you need to speak English fluently. Of course, it all looks different in practice: nationality is not that important as long as you are honky but your degree and teaching certificate must be provided when applying for Z visa.

However, even if you have all documents sorted out, you might find out that the school you work for has no licence to employ foreign teachers and then you are like “What the hell!?!?” This is what happened to me. I had my degree, teaching experience and teaching certificate, I went to Chongqing to get my medical check done in order to prove I’m healthy, but…. the school messed up as it lacked certain documents. Somehow, I don’t know how, three weeks later, the school got the licence with other documents sorted out and we were ready to apply for Z visa. I had to go to Hong Kong and apply for my Z visa in a Chinese visa agency. The address is Room 11A, 7/F, New East Ocean Centre, No 9 Science Museum Road, T.S.T East, Kowloon Hong Kong. Tel: 27233288 or 91660824. The staff helped me fill in the application form properly, scanned all documents provided by me and the school. I had to wait 24 hours as I was in rush and paid HK$1.800 for express service. I didn’t want to risk because if you make a mistake when filling the application form or one of the documents is missing, Chinese embassy can easily reject your application and the money you paid is lost. You can also apply in Chinese embassy in Hong Kong or in your home country. Unfortunately, everyone must leave China to apply for Z visa, so the best choice for someone who hasn’t gone to China yet is to apply in his/ her home country. Some schools ask teachers to come to China with L visa promising it will be converted to Z visa immediately but, in most cases, it isn’t true. The school will ask you, at least twice, to extend your L visa (you can extend your L visa twice and the price is different for each country, but for me it was RMB250) in the capital of province you work in, and when they run out of ideas and possibilities, they will finally start to prepare documents for Z visa. To extend your L (tourist) visa (requirements for Chongqing province) you need to provide a bank statement proving you have at least RMB20.000 in your account to be able to survive in China another month, passport, a proof of address in China, filled in application form with a photo attached (the photo has to be taken the same day of handing all documents over).

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Z Visa Requirements

1. Valid actual passport with at least six months validity left before expiration and at least one blank visa page left in it.

2. Completed Visa Application Form.

3. One recent passport standard photo affixed on the Visa Application Form.

4. “Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Unit”/ “Confirmation Letter of Invitation”.

5. Work Permit (should be done by the company or school you are employed in).

6. Medical Check passed.

Important: the visa is valid for only 30 days from the date of arrival during which time you and your employer must seek a Temporary Residence Permit for the duration of your contract. My visa is valid for 12 months.

Z visa fee

It is hard to say exactly how much it costs. It all depends on how many entries you apply for and what duration of your stay is, nationality, etc. Generally speaking, Chinese embassy or consulate only issue single entry Z Visa to aliens. If you apply for Z visa in the United States of America, US$140 for American citizens, US$30 for other citizens (

Tourist Visa

The L (tourist) visa is the one that everyone can apply for without any special documents from academic institutions, government or business corporations. Thanks to this visa you can travel across China visiting all provinces apart from Tibet where all foreigners are required to apply for a special visa. It is very easy to get a one-month L visa without any problems and you can extend it twice in any province. Some people apply for double entry L visa as they want to visit Hong Kong and then come back to China again to carry on traveling.

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Americans get the best deal because they can get China 10 year visa in one go!

Tourist Visa Requirements

1. Passport with at least 6 months remaining validity and available blank pages for visa.

2. One completed Visa Application Form. You can find it on the website of Chinese Embassy.

3. A recent passport-size color photo with white background stuck on the visa application form.

4. Under some circumstances, the original and copy of Chinese Hotel Booking and Return Air Ticket are required.

How to apply?

You can apply for your L visa in Chinese Embassies, Consulates and other Chinese diplomatic missions to submit the application in person. If you can’t do it in person, you can pay an agency to apply on your behalf or ask a member of your family to do so. No appointment is required. Mailing your visa application form is not accepted.

How long does it take?

It usually takes 4 working days for processing. Express service requires additional fees.

How much does it cost?

Everything depends on the duration of stay and nationality. You can pay £40 for 6-month L visa with double entry, duration of each stay: 90 days.

Business Visa

The F/M (business) visa is required when planning to do a business, studying or attending training in China. Foreigners call it “Cultural exchange” visa. In order to obtain an F visa the invitation letter from a Chinese organisation you are going to work with is required: a letter from university when studying, an invitation letter from a business friend, etc. Some foreigners who cannot get the Z (working) visa apply for express F/M visa in Hong Kong and say they work in a school as a volunteer (and continue being paid, which is of course illegal).

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Business Visa Requirements

1. Applicant’s passport with blank visa pages and at least 6 months validity left before expiration.

2. Completed Visa Application Form.

3. One recent passport-size color photo stuck on the visa application form.

4. An “Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Unit””Confirmation Letter of Invitation”.

5. A copy of Chinese hotel reservation, return air ticket booking and financial proof (at least 3.000 Rmb).
How to Apply Processing time Visa fees: the same as L visa except the fees (Cez paid HK$3.600 for 6-month, multiple entries F visa issued in Hong Kong).

The picture below illustrates the Chinese visa sample with an explanation of how it should be read properly:

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For more information, you can visit the following website:
Hope this information will help some of you.

Good luck with your visa! :)


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Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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