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Do I need a visa to visit China? Yes. No. Maybe.

Do I need a visa to visit China? Yes. No. Maybe.

Check out this article for a comprehensive guide to visa-free entry policy according to relevant agreements and regulations.

Travel can be very exciting. If you have always dreamed of visiting China – that fabled land of the orient which is home to so many grand traditions and also so much that is modern and new – your first step might be to determine whether you will need to apply for a visa in order to visit.  

The answer to this question is somewhat complicated.  Some people will need a visa, and some will not. Whether you will need a visa depends, in part, on the locations you wish to visit, your circumstances and how long you wish to stay. There are various tests you can apply to help determine whether you might need a visa before visiting. If you are in doubt or have questions, be sure to contact the Chinese Visa Application Center or your travel agency. 

Here are a set of questions that you can use to help determine your need for a visa in order to accomplish your travel goals. 

  1. Where do you live? People who live are citizens of Seychelles, Mauritius, Bahamas, San Marino, Fiji, or Grenada and hold a valid passport do not need a visa for a stay of no more than thirty days because their countries have mutual visa exemption agreements. Likewise, if you have a Permanent Resident Card or an APEC business travel card, you may enter China without a visa. 

  2. Are you part of a tour group? If you are part of a tour group sponsored by a company that is recognized by the National Tourism Administration of China and registered in Hainan Province, and you live in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Ukraine or Kazakhstan you can visit the Hainan Province for no more than 15 days. Your tour group should include at least five people. If you are a citizen of a country that has diplomatic relations with China and you are with a registered tour group that is already touring Hong Kong or Macao, you can go with that tour group to Zhu Jiang (Pearl River) Delta Area for no more than six days. The delta area includes Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, and Huizhou, and the visa only includes the administrative areas. If the group goes to Shantou, they must remain within the administrative areas and must exit China from there. 

  3. Are you just passing through on your way to somewhere else? Citizens from 51 different countries can be in China for up to 72 hours without a visa if you have valid international traveling documents, and a transit flight ticket with a confirmed seat and date. You can apply for a transit visa exemption at the airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian and Xi'an. The countries that are offered this exemption include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherland, Poland, Portugal, Slovak, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. Russia, Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania, The United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. You can learn more at the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration.

  4. Do you plan to leave the airport? Airline passengers who have confirmed onward tickets and do not plan to leave the airport for any reason do not need a passport for a 24-hour stay. However, if you plan to leave the airport to do a little sight-seeing or go even just to go to a hotel, you will need permission from the authorities.

Travel plans can change for a variety of reasons. If your circumstances should require a longer stay or a visit to an area that is not included in your original itinerary, be sure to get in touch with the Visa Application Center right away. If you are in a location or have a situation that will make this difficult, contact local authorities as quickly as possible. Someone will be sure to know what you need to do to remain in compliance with travel regulations. In many cases, you will need to return to a city such as Hong Kong that is outside the Chinese mainland in order to fill out an application. Some travelers will need to return to their home country and apply for a visa from that location.

There are many good reasons you might decide, while touring or passing through China, that you would like to have more time in that country. You might become interested in exploring regions that would require a better visa than the one on which you entered the country. Or you might find a job. Perhaps you make some new friends and want to visit with them longer. China is a huge place. Even thirty days is a very short amount of time in which to visit even a few of the famous sights open to tourists. 

China has something for everyone. There is, of course, the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army. But there is also the Panda breeding center, for those who are interested in naturalism. The Li River offers vistas that are attractive to artists and photographers. For adventures who like climbing, there is the Yellow Mountains. 

For less adventurous visitors, there is the West Lake where the carefully sculptured landscape offers more gentle touring. It includes places to bike, walk or just admire the pagodas or arched bridges. If this is a little too quiet, and you are seeking more a more energetic venue, the Bund or Victoria Harbor with their bright lights and fine dining might be more to your taste.

Regardless of where you might travel or your goals, it is always a good idea to make sure that your paperwork is in order.  

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