Getting a Chinese Travel Visa

A Practical Guide For Adventurous Travelers and Tourists

It’s great that you are planning on traveling in China, it will be a really incredible experience. From Beijing to Tibet, China has so much to offer to new or even experienced travelers. With landscapes ranging from ice caves to thick jungle, you could spend a lifetime here and not see everything there is to see.

Temple in Suzhou, China

About the Tourist (L) Visa

For most travelers, the visa type that most suits you is the single entry visa with 6 months validity.

Visa Variants

There is also a “Multiple Entry” (essentially unlimited entry) L Visa type, that is valid for 6, 12, or 24 months depending on the applicant. These visa types are only available to Ethnic Chinese living abroad, spouses of those living in China, and American Citizens (as of 4/2018 the political climate makes it unlikely for American citizens to receive this visa type).

The Documents

So now that you know what the L visa is, and you’ve decided on the type you will be applying for, what are the documents that you will need to provide?

Primary Documents

  1. Passport with 6 months of validity past your travel date
  2. Chinese L Visa application form
  3. Proof of Travel OR Letter of invitation
  4. One passport-sized color photo (45mm x 35mm)

Optional or Situational

  1. Proof of legal stay or residence status (if you are not applying in your country of citizenship)
  2. A personal statement of purpose (if you have traveled to China before)
  3. Proof of employment (on a case-by-case basis)

1. Valid Passport

This is fairly straightforward, you will need to compare the expiration date on your passport with the date that you plan to travel. You need to have a 6 month buffer to be eligible to apply.

2. Chinese Visa Application Form

3. Proof of Travel or a Letter of Invitation

You are supposed to provide one or the other of these to the Chinese consulate when you apply, but I recommend providing both, as it will lower your chances of having to submit again (don’t worry, it probably won’t happen).

sample invitation letter

4. Passport-Sized Photo

Different local governments have their own standards or the passport photo size, but this example photo (below) from the UK government should cover most if not all cases.


Proof of Legal Stay or Residence (if applicable)

Proof of residence must include your name as it appears on your passport and displays your current address.

Sample drivers license; American

How to Apply

You can come to the Chinese Embassies, Consulates and other Chinese diplomatic missions to submit application in person. Applications by mailing are not acceptable and will be refused at most of Chinese embassies or consulates.

The vast majority of applicants will take this second option and entrust a visa agency to do the application for them.

I will recommend a couple well-known Chinese visa services here for your convenience. I also highly recommend this Wikihow Article on applying for your Chinese Visa. Safe Travels!

Product Manager + Software Developer. Interested in Travel, Culture, and the Internet.