Updated: on 24 February 2024

Giant pandas, a Great Wall, and delicious dumplings await travelers who can navigate the visa requirements to enter China. But don’t worry, Secret Retreats has you covered with our guide to all you need to know about the latest China entry requirements which we also keep updated with changes as they happen. If you are a foreign national and want to travel to mainland China, you will likely need to apply for a Chinese tourist visa – also known as an ‘L Visa’. These are available through Chinese Embassies and Consulates in your home country (a process that can be tedious and time-consuming) or through a branch of the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre. For the location of your nearest Chinese Visa Application Service Centre (CVASC) and other useful information visit: https://www.visaforchina.cn/globle/.

Visa requirements to enter China include possession of an undamaged passport that is valid for a minimum of six months following the expiration date of your planned for Chinese tourist visa. In addition, you may be required to supply proof of accommodation for your first night in the country and a valid return flight ticket. You will also have to fill out a form outlining your travel plans when in the country (it is best not to mention Tibet or Xinjiang on this form, even if you intend to visit). The cost of a China visa for tourists depends on several factors including nationality, type of visa, length of stay, and the number of entries required. For most visitors applying for a single-entry visa valid for 30 days from the date of entry, the cost is US$35. However, because of complicated international relations, the entry requirement for China for some nationals is significantly more expensive:
  • UK - £78
  • US - US$140
  • Canada - C$142
  • Australia – A$109
  • France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain - €126

Citizens of some countries are also permitted to apply for longer-term multiple entry visas they can use to spend between 30 to 120 days at a time in China. The US, Canada, Israel, and Argentina are eligible for 10-year visas; South Africa and Brazil may apply for five-year visas, and citizens of the UK are eligible for two-year visas. However, most single-entry visas are valid for a maximum of 30 days and must be used within three months of the date of issue. Beware of overstaying your visa as Chinese visa requirements are strict. Overstay will result in a ¥500 per-day fine, possible deportation, and the risk of a five-year ban from reentering the country. Visitors who do need to extend their stay should contact a Public Security Bureau (PSB) office with plenty of time remaining on their Chinese tourist visa. Extensions can only be for as long as the duration of the original visa, can take as long as 7 business days to complete, and will cost ¥160. Citizens from the US and UK again must pay more with extensions costing ¥760 and ¥500 respectively. Although a first extension should be easy to arrange, a second is less likely, and a third virtually impossible.

China Visa-Free Entry for Fleeting Visits and Longer Stays

Short-term visitors can take advantage of China visa-free entry. Visa-free transit visas are available for periods of 24-hours, 72-hours, and 144-hours. This means that travelers can travel around limited parts of the country for up to six days. However, China visa-free entry does require travelers to prove they are traveling to a third country when they leave because visitors are supposed to be in transit. This is a great option for those who want to explore a specific part of the country.

Note: Latest China entry requirements mean those taking advantage of visa-free transit visas must enter and leave the country at one of 29 designated ports. Failure to leave from one of these ports can result in penalties being imposed. Here is a list of eligible nations for the short-term China visa free entry:
  • Europe: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ukraine.
  • Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, United States.
  • Oceania: Australia, New Zealand.
  • Asia: Brunei, Japan, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, United Arab Emirates.

Visitors from the above countries are eligible for the 72-hour transit visa. However, it is important to note that the 72-hour Chinese visa-free entry is ONLY available to those landing at Changsha Huanghua International Airport, Harbin Taiping International Airport, and Guilin Liang Jiang International Airport. A 24-hour visa-free entry permit is available at most ports to those who have proof of travel to a third country. China visa-free entry may also apply to travelers who have booked with tour companies to visit mainland China from places such as Hong Kong, Macau, and Shanghai to travel in Hainan province or visit Shantou in Guangdong Province, but travelers are strictly prohibited from straying outside of designated areas.

For longer stays, China has reciprocal agreements with 150 countries granting visa free travel to China but for most of these countries this visa waiver applies only to holders of diplomatic passports. There is however a visa waiver for holders of ordinary passports from the following countries for the purposes of tourism, travel, business, and family visits for up to 30 days.
These countries are:
  • Armenia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Dominica
  • Fiji
  • Grenada
  • The Maldives
  • Mauritius
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Suriname
  • The United Arab Emirates

Passport holders from the above countries will still need to apply for a visa to China if their intension is to work, study, settle in China, or to stay in China for longer than 30 days.

The Latest China Entry Requirements Grant Visa Free Entry to Travelers from 10 Nations

In a new move to encourage and increase international tourism to China, the Chinese government have waived visa requirements for ordinary passport holders from 10 nations making the China entry requirements for these travellers very simple. As part of a trial for visa free travel to China, the Chinese government granted visa free travel to holders of ordinary passports from Ireland, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Malaysia. This agreement started in December 2023 and will continue until the end of November 2024 and give travellers visa free travel within mainland China for up to 15days. Holders of ordinary passports from Brunei can also travel visa free to mainland China for tourism, business and family visits for up to 15days. So for the current period there is no need for the above nations to seek a visa to enter China. Additionally, from February 9th 2024, holders of ordinary passports from Singapore can travel visa free to China for tourism, business and family visits for up to 30days. And from March 1st, holders of passports from Thailand can travel visa free to mainland China for up to 30days.

Entry Requirement to China for Those Visiting Hong Kong, Macau, Hainan, and Tibet

Visiting Hong Kong and Macau is relatively easy compared to the entry requirement to China for most foreign nationals. Most visitors are permitted to stay for up to 90 days without a Chinese tourist visa, although South Africans are only permitted 30 days on arrival and travelers from the UK get up to 180 days. Those wishing to cross over into mainland China will have to submit to the usual Chinese visa requirements and get hold of a standard Chinese tourist visa. This is relatively easy to do by contacting the China Travel Service in Hong Kong: https://ww1.ctshk.com/en/. There is also the option of China visa-free entry to most foreign nationals wishing to visit the resort island of Hainan. Although visitors are not permitted to leave the island and travel in wider China, nationals from countries including the US, UK, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the European Union can enjoy the province's tropical beaches for up to 30 days after they arrive. Again, those who want to travel deeper into China will need to acquire a Chinese tourist visa. Traveling to Tibet is not quite so easy. To enter the country by road, rail, or air, travelers are required to possess a China visa for tourists and a Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) permit. To obtain a TTB, applicants will have to book a guide for the duration of their visit as well as private transport if they want to travel outside Lhasa. As direct applications are not accepted, it is best to visit Tibet as part of an organized tour. As the Asia Experts, Secret Retreats is always on hand to take the heavy lifting out of travelling to China and beyond. We have a growing selection of fascinating ready-made China travel itineraries, and our concierge team are always ready to help you plan and book the China holiday of a lifetime on a tailor-made China travel itinerary. Please feel free to contact us so we can start building your ultimate Chinese travel Itinerary.

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