How Long Does It Take to Get a Chinese Visa? 

By: Paul Buckley

January 23, 2024

Travelers planning trips to China often ask how long it takes to get a Chinese visa. As of November 14, 2023, the average processing time for a Chinese visa application was approximately eight business days. 

However, various factors, such as seasonality, application volume, and the specific type of visa, can affect this timeframe. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, travelers should consult CIBTvisas' Check Requirements page. 

While the average processing time is eight days, external factors may extend processing times by five to seven working days. For a small fee, CIBT's expedited service can shorten this period to four to seven working days. 

Applying early will accommodate any unforeseen delays. Travelers should request their China visa at least one or two months before departure.  

Do US citizens need a visa for China? 

Yes, all US citizens must have a visa to enter China. The type of visa required depends on the purpose of the visit. The Chinese government has strict rules regarding visa validity on entry and exit.  

As the US Department of State advises

  • US citizens must have a valid visa to exit China and must leave China before their authorized visa expires. 

  • You may apply for a visa extension from the local Entry-Exit Bureau of the Chinese government. However, you must do so before leaving China. These requests take time, so applications should be filed well ahead of your visa's expiration. 

  • After you enter China, you must register your stay within 24 hours of arrival. Failure to do so can result in fines and deportation. Travelers can register with hotel staff or the local police station.  

  • Foreigners must always carry their passports, visas, or residence permits under local regulations. 

  • Several people can check your visa, including the police, school administrators, transportation officials, and hotel staff.  

  • The Chinese government strictly enforces restrictions on activities allowed by particular visa classes and entry and exit requirements. 

  • Staying in China on an expired visa could lead to fines, imprisonment, and deportation. 

The Chinese government permits 144-hour visa-free transit for 20 cities in mainland China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Shenzhen. Seventy-two-hour visa-free transit is permitted in Guilin, Harbin, and Changsha. Most cities in China offer 24-hour visa-free transit for international travelers. 

Visa-free transit applies only to the transit city. It does not allow travel outside the city, regardless of the permit’s duration.  

Types of Chinese visas available for US citizens 

There are several types of Chinese visas. Categories L/M/Z/X/G are most commonly used by US citizens.  

Visa Type 

Processing Time  


Tourist visa (L) 

Up to 8 business days or longer  

90 days to 10 years 

Business visa (M) 

Up to 8 business days or longer 

30 to 90 days 

Work visa (Z) 

Up to 8 business days or longer 

90 days to one year 

Student visa (X1, X2)  

Up to 8 business days or longer 

X1 Duration of the study program up to five years.  
X2 Duration of study program, under 180 Days 

Transit visa (G) 

Up to 8 business days or longer. Some visa-free transit in select cities. 

Up to 10 days. For up to 24 hours, visa-free transit is available in most cities and up to six days in select cities. 

How does a US citizen get a visa to enter China? 

On their own, US citizens can apply for a Chinese visa through multiple channels with the Chinese embassy, consulate, or online application forms. 

The Chinese visa-application process includes some complex requirements and supporting documents. Errors in your visa application can lead to delays or denial. To avoid these complications, travelers can also apply via CIBT

Appointment-based system and processing times 

The Chinese consulate general uses an appointment-based system for visa submissions. After you have submitted the application and your documents are approved, CIBTvisas will schedule your appointment at a convenient time. 

Because of limited availability, the waiting time for an appointment can take up to 30 business days. The visa processing time referenced here is how long you must wait to receive the visa after your appointment. Travelers should factor in this additional appointment time requirement when requesting a visa for China. 

Ten-year visa issued before March 28, 2020 

With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, travelers can once again use a China 10-year visa issued before March 28, 2020. However, if you have changed your name since obtaining the visa, it is no longer valid—all Chinese visas must match the name on your passport, so you'll need to apply for a new one.  

Requirements for select US citizens born abroad  

US citizens born in certain countries who plan to enter China with an American passport must appear at the same embassy or consulate for their China visa application. These countries are Afghanistan, Cameroon, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria. CIBTvisas cannot assist with this particular visa request. 

Requirements for US citizens with criminal records 

Travelers with criminal records who want to apply for a China visa must appear at the consulate to provide biometrics.  

Limited-validity second passports 

Limited-validity second passports are not accepted for the China visa application process. 

Express service: China visa application 

Express processing options are available for Chinese visas through CIBTvisas for an additional fee. 

What is the fastest way to get a visa for China? 

The fastest way to get a Chinese visa is by opting for expedited processing service, which can process your visa within five to seven working days. Always ensure your application is complete and accurate to avoid delays. 

What are the requirements for a Chinese visa for US citizens? 

US citizens must submit documentation relevant to their visa type along with the completed visa application form. Required documents include the applicant's passport, valid for at least six months, a recent photo, a travel itinerary, and an invitation.  

Be prepared for a successful trip with CIBTvisas 

Navigating the visa-application process for China requires careful management of requirements. Travelers can ensure a smooth application process by staying informed, planning, and getting sound advice on their visa applications and needs.  

Remember to verify all information with official resources and begin your application on time before your trip. An experienced visa specialist can help you navigate the complexities of border-crossing requirements. Contact CIBTvisas to learn more today.   

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