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(May 20, 2013) On May 3, 2013, China's State Council published the Regulations on the Administration of the Entry and Exit of Aliens (Draft for Comments) (hereinafter Draft Regulations) online, in order to solicit public opinions on the document. Once the Draft Regulations take effect, a new visa system will replace the existing one regulated by the Rules for the Implementation of the Law on Administration of the Entry and Exit of Aliens (Implementation Rules). (Text of the Draft Regulations [in Chinese], Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council website (May 3, 2013); comments from the public may be submitted until June 3, 2013, online at http://www.chinalaw.gov.cn, by mail, or by email to wgrrjcj@chinalaw.gov.cn.)

Legislative Background

Currently, the primary legislation regulating entry and stay of foreigners in China is the Law on the Administration of the Entry and Exit of Aliens passed in 1985 (hereinafter Aliens Entry and Exit Law) and its Implementation Rules. The exit and entry of Chinese citizens are governed by the parallel Law on the Administration of the Exit and Entry of Citizens. Previously, on June 30, 2012, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed a "unified" exit and entry law to regulate the exit and entry of both Chinese citizens and foreigners, the Law on the Administration of Exit and Entry (hereinafter Exit and Entry Law).

When the new Exit and Entry Law takes effect on July 1, 2013, it will replace the previous two laws. Relevant administrative regulations and rules, including those on the visa system and the employment of foreigners, are expected to be updated in accordance with the new law. (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Chujing Rujing Guanli Fa [The Law on the Administration of Exit and Entry of the People's Republic of China] (promulgated on June 30, 2012, effective as of July 1, 2013), The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China website.)

Proposed New Visa System

In general, every foreigner will need a visa to enter China, unless otherwise provided by the Exit and Entry Law. (Exit and Entry Law, art. 15.) There are four categories of visas: diplomatic visas; courtesy visas; service visas (issued to foreigners entering China for official service reasons); and ordinary visas. The State Council is authorized by the Exit and Entry Law to formulate detailed rules for ordinary visas. Rules for the issuance of diplomatic, courtesy, and service visas will be formulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Id. art. 16.)

Under the new visa system proposed by the Draft Regulations, the number of types of ordinary visas would be increased from the current eight to twelve. The most significant change is that the Draft Regulations would add an R visa in accordance with the Exit and Entry Law. As part of China's efforts in recent years to attract foreign talent, the new Exit and Entry Law adds "attracting talent" as one of the purposes for an ordinary visa. The new R visa will be issued to foreign professionals who are either highly skilled or whose skill is urgently needed by China. (Draft Regulations, art. 5.)

The F visa, the business visa under the current system, would be issued to non-business visitors under the new system; a separate M visa is added and would be issued to foreigners coming for business and trade purposes. (Id.; see chart below.)

Current System

Proposed Changes

D visa

Resident visa, issued to permanent residents

D visa

No significant changes found

Z visa

Employment/work visa, issued to foreign workers and their accompanying family members

Z1 visa

Issued to foreign workers working over 90 days

Z2 visa

Issued to foreign workers working no longer than 90 days

X visa

Student visa, issued to students and others coming to China for training or internship for a period of six months or more

X1 visa

For long-term study

X2 visa

For short-term study

F visa

Business visa, issued to persons invited to give lectures or for official visits; for purposes of business, scientific, technological, or cultural exchanges; or for short-term studies or internships lasting less than six months

F visa

Non-business visa, issued to persons for purposes of non-business (scientific, educational, cultural, health, sports) exchanges and visits

L visa

Tourist visa, issued to persons entering China for tourism, to visit relatives, or for other private purposes

L visa

Will generally remain the same, and a group L visa will be added for tourists traveling in groups

G visa

Transit visa;

G visa

No significant changes found

C visa

Crew visa, issued to crew members performing duties on board an international train or aircraft, and their accompanying family members

C visa

Issued to crew members performing duties on board a foreign aircraft, train, bus, or ship, or to family members of ship crews

J visa

Journalist visa, issued to foreign journalists

J1 visa

Issued to resident foreign journalists

J2 visa

Issued to foreign journalists for short–term stays



M visa

New business visa, issued to persons coming for business and trade activities



Q1 visa

Family reunion visa, issued to family members [children] of Chinese citizens or permanent residents, including children left in China to be taken care of by Chinese relatives

Q2 visa

Issued to foreigners visiting Chinese citizens and permanent residents for a short term



R1 visa

Issued to foreign professionals who are highly skilled or whose skill is urgently needed by China, and who will be residing in China

R2 visa

Issued to the R-1 types of foreign professionals staying in China for a short term



S visa

Issued to foreigners coming to China for private activities. including marriage, inheritance, and adoption, or for medical services

(Draft Regulations, art. 5, & Waiguo Ren Rujing Chujing Guanli Fa Shishi Xize [Implementation Regulations of the Law on the Entry and Exit of Aliens] (approved by the State Council on Dec. 3, 1986, last amended on Apr. 24, 2010), art. 4, The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China website.)

"Long term" normally refers to a stay of over 180 days. A stay no longer than 180 days is considered to be "short term." (Draft Regulations, art. 55.)

Dependent visas would be limited to close family members of foreigners applying for certain long-term visas according to the Draft Regulations, including the J1, R1, R2, X1, and Z1 visas. A dependent visa would have the same visa letter type as that of the primary applicant, with an additional mark "-Y." Eligible family members include not only spouses and children under 18 years old, but also parents of an applicant and parents of the applicant's spouse. (Draft Regulations, art. 5.)

Author: Laney Zhang More by this author
Topic: Immigration and nationality More on this topic
Jurisdiction: China More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 05/20/2013