Excerpted from the China Career Guide
To visit the People’s Republic of China (PRC), foreign nationals should apply for visas from Chinese diplomatic missions, consular posts or other resident agencies abroad authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, such as Chinese embassies or consulates, which are responsible for processing visa applications by foreign citizens. They are also responsible for issuance, change and extension of diplomatic and service visas and for issuance of residence permits to holders of this type of visa.
There are a few situations where no visa is required or a person can obtain a visa on arrival. The following are the main exemptions:
- Diplomatic, service or official passport holders (less than 30 days)
- Direct transit (within 24 hours)
- Holders of aliens' residence cards
- Holders of APEC business travel cards (less than two months)
- Those visiting Hainan Province (up to 21 days)
- Those visiting the Pearl River Delta Region (up to six days)
- Nationals of Brunei, Japan and Singapore may enter and stay in the PRC for a period of not more than 15 days without applying for visas for the purpose of tourism, business, transit, or visiting relatives or friends.
General Visa Applications Process and Requirements
Applications for visas should be made at overseas Chinese visa authorities serving the applicant’s place of residence. These include Chinese embassies, consulates, visa offices and the consular department of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
X-1 Visas are issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days, and X-2 Visas are issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of no more than 180 days. Please note that foreign nationals visiting China for short-term studies will now apply for X-2 Visas rather than F Visas.
M Visas are issued to persons who come to China for business or commercial activities. Proper activities with an M Visa include negotiating a business contract, purchasing equipment and attending a trade fair.
An employer in China must obtain an employment license to hire a foreign worker and complete the application for an employment permit on behalf of the foreign employee. This employment permit is needed to apply for an employment visa (Z Visa) and engage in work-related activities in China.
The Chinese Government's Official Web Portal (English)
Chinese Visa Application Form (V. 2013)
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete China Guide.