Some of the biggest changes to China’s visa policy since the 1980s came into effect on Sunday, September 1. The idea behind the changes is apparently to provide more flexibility for foreigners, which is why the number of visa categories has increased from eight to 12.
Furthermore, Shenzhen Daily notes that when China last updated the immigration rules in 1986, there wasn’t much consideration that foreigners would move to China and stay forever, let alone bring family along with them. But times have changed.
By the end of 2011, 4,752 foreigners were granted permanent residency in China. This is a minuscule number compared with other countries — and even Hong Kong — yet shows that some laowai really are staying for the longest of hauls. Meanwhile, the number of foreigners entering or leaving China topped 54 million last year, the Shenzhen Daily said. With this kind of traffic, the old visa rules just weren’t cutting it.
China Briefing has a good outline of the changes. Among them, three new types of visas are being introduced:
The R Visa — For highly-skilled and in-demand senior executives and high-level talents
The Q Visa — For overseas Chinese returning for family reunion purposes
The S Visa — For the families of foreigners who wish to come to China for family reunion purposes.
Below is a list of the other visa categories, from China Briefing:
Applicable to train attendants, air crew members and seamen operating international services, and to their accompanying family members
Applicable to foreigners who are to reside permanently in China
Applicable to foreigners who come to China for exchanges, visits and inspections
Applicable to foreigners who transit through China
J-1 Visa: Applicable to resident foreign journalists in China (long term stay – more than 180 days)
J-2 Visa: Applicable to foreign journalists who make short trips to China for reporting tasks (short term stay – less than or equal to 180 days)
Applicable to overseas tourists (those traveling with tour groups can be issued a group L Visa)
Applicable to foreigners who come to China for business or commercial activities
Q-1 Visa: Applicable to foreigners who apply for entry into China for family reunification with Chinese relatives or foreigners with permanent residency in China, as well as to those who need to visit China for adoption issues (long term stay – more than 180 days)
Q-2 Visa: Applicable to foreigners who come to China for a temporary visit to Chinese citizens or foreigners with permanent residency in China (short term stay – less than or equal to 180 days)
Applicable to senior-level foreign talents and foreign nationals whose special skills are urgently needed in China
S-1 Visa: Applicable to spouses, parents, parents-in-law and children under 18 years old of foreigners who stay in China for study or working purposes, and to foreigners who need to reside in China for other personal reasons (long term stay – more than 180 days)
S-2 Visa: Applicable to family members of foreigners who stay in China for study or working purposes, and to foreigners who need to reside in China for other personal reasons (short term stay – less than or equal to 180 days)
X-1 visa is applicable to foreigners who come to China for a long-term study period (more than 180 days)
X-2 visa is applicable to foreigners who come to China for a short-term study period (less than or equal to 180 days)
Applicable to foreigners who apply to work in China
As usual, we’re quite lucky in this part of the world. Many laowai stationed in more far-flung regions of the country must buy air tickets and fly to Korea, Russia, Japan, or Hong Kong on visa runs. We have the convenience of just popping across the border.
Whichever visa you qualify for, just make sure it’s updated and valid.
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