China is a land of wonders that plays host to nearly 100 million visitors every year. Many come on vacation to see sites like The Great Wall or Beijing’s Forbidden City and only stay a week or two and don’t require any special identification besides a passport. But, as one of the largest, most booming economies of the world, around half of those visitors are traveling to China for business reasons, and must obtain the correct visa.
This article is meant for UK travelers who travel to China for business purposes and need to know what Visa type is required for them. Applying for and obtaining the correct Chinese visa can be time-consuming and headache-inducing. It’s important to do it in the proper way, with the correct documentation, and early enough so that it has time to wind through Chinese government bureaucracy. This article aims to provide a helpful guide to applying for the Chinese business visa, as well as guidelines for how you can use it, and how long it lasts. Let’s dive in.
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China offers three visas to travelers hoping to enter the country for work-related reasons, each suited to a different situation. The list below defines the different China visas That could be used for business purposes¹:
- Commerce and trade (M): This visa is for travelers who plan to conduct commercial or trade work within China (internships don’t count). It can be set either for single entry or multiple entries.
- Talent Visa (R): A visa for people who have a skill or talent (at a high level) that is in urgent need in China
- The Work Visa (Z): This single-entry visa is for a person who comes to China to work for a Chinese company, rather than to represent the interests of a foreign business.
In the past you could apply for an F visa if you needed a business visa, but this visa is now for non-commerce and non-business related visits¹.
You are allowed to stay for different amounts of time based on which Visa you were issued and on your personal situation. In most cases the M-visa is issued for 3 months, with a maximum stay of up to 30 days².
A recent change has made it possible for UK nationals to apply for a 5 or 10 year multiple entry visa for China. This has come into effect on the 25th of March 2019. It’s not an option for all visa types, but it does also count for the M-visa³.
Yes, it’s possible to apply for an extension of the duration of your stay in China⁴. However, you should make sure to do this before your visa expires, as it’s not permitted to stay in China for longer than your visa states.
On your visa you can see both how long the visa itself is valid for, but also how long your stay can be and the number of entries you get, into China. It’s important to not mix the validity of your visa with the allowed duration of your stay⁵.
Business professionals traveling to China from other countries, like the UK, should most likely apply for the M visa. Until 2013, there was only one business visa for China, the F. It was broken up so that the F-visa and the M-visa could serve two distinct groups of people. The F visa remained in use only for those taking part in an investigation, scientific study, or cultural exchange program. The M was created to specifically accommodate business professionals traveling on behalf of an employer. It’s not a Visa that allows you to work in China, merely to make business trips there².
Applicants for the M class visa in China must have the following documents²:
- A valid passport. Must be good for at least six more months and include at least two blank pages.
- A completed Visa Application form, typewritten
- Two color photos of you from the past six months attached to the application form.
- A copy of an M Visa invitation letter. The invitation letter can be one of three types.
1. An invitation letter composed by the Chinese business or trade partner you have come to China to meet.
2. An invitation letter from a Chinese government agency.
3. An invitation letter from a trade fair.
- The visa center is required to take fingerprints from all 10 of your fingers⁶
When you have gathered all the relevant documents you can apply for the M-visa at the Chines Visa Application Service Centre. You can make an appointment online, but the rest of the application will be done in person⁷. At the application centre they’ll also take your fingerprints⁶.
Although it’s not standard procedure, you may be required to be interviewed or to verify the signatures you put on the relevant documents. Should this be deemed necessary, this will be done at the Chinese Embassy or the Chinese Consulate General⁷.
If you’ve submitted all the right documents, and filled in the form correctly, your visa should normally be ready in 4 working days. It’s also possible to speed up the process, in that case your visa should be ready in 3 working days⁷.
The best time to apply for your visa for China is approximately 1 month before you intend to visit China and the earliest is 3 months in advance⁸.
The table below lists the different fees for obtaining a Chinese business visa when you use the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre. An additional fee is charged if you need your visa approval expedited. It’s possible to have the documents sent to you via post, however you’ll have to pay an additional fee for this as well. Fees differ per nationality, the fees in the table below are for the UK only⁹.
|Regular processing time||£151|
|5-year visa||Between £236 - £260|
|10-year visa||Between £321 - £345|
These fees include: the visa fee + the service fee for the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre.
China is a huge country with a roaring economy, and people travel there for work all the time. Because of that, the Chinese government has an interest in keeping the visa application process running quickly and smoothly. While it may seem intimidating at first, following a few simple steps will ensure that you have the documentation you need in time for your business trip. Good luck closing that deal.
Source used for this article:
*All sources checked on April 15, 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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