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Guide on how to distinguish between a Chinese visa and residence permit?

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In this article we will explain how to distinguish between Chinese visa and residence permit as well as address the questions regarding what type of visa to apply for to enter China and whether you can enter China with your current residence permit.

What is a Chinese visa?

A visa is an endorsement stamped by a country’s sovereign authority on a passport or other travel document held by a national or foreign citizen to indicate permission to enter, leave, or transit the country’s borders.

It is usually represented by the Chinese pinyin letters of the reason for entry, usually issued by Chinese embassies and consulates abroad, and also has a limit on the length of stay in China

Some visa holders such as a 10-year tourist visa (between China and the United States) may enter/exit the 2 countries several times within 10 years. They do not have to apply for another visa; however, the maximum stay is six months.

Most types of visas must be traded for a long-term type of residency permit after entry.
Take Z/Work Visa as an example, it needs to be exchanged for a long-term type of residency permit after entering China within 1 month.

What is a Chinese Residence Permit?

A residence permit (issued from the Chinese immigration authorities中国出入境管理部门) is a residence document that foreigners apply for after entering China with the relevant visa. This is a long-term visa which allows multiple entries and exits in China.

There are five categories of residence permits:

  • Residence permit for work (工作)
  • Residence permit for family reunions (团聚)
  • Residence permit for personal matters (人事务)
  • Residence permit for study (学习)
  • Residence permit for journalists (记者)

What visas do I need to enter China during the pandemic?

Nowadays, the Chinese embassies abroad mainly issue the following visas:

  • Work visas
  • Family reunion visas
  • Business invitation-based visas.

Student and tourist visas have ceased to be issued in most cases with the exception of students from Korea who can enter China with valid student visa issued by the Chinese embassy in Seoul.

Can I leave and enter China with my valid residence permit?

Yes and no. We have addressed this question on a separate post here.