You 99% Most Likely Need a Visa To Enter China
Most countries around the world do not have visa-free entry agreement arrangements with China. So you need to get a visa in advance.
Do You Have a Chinese Visa Already? or Trying To Apply At the Border?
When coming to Mainland China, there’s a 99% chance you need to get a visa for your passport to enter. There are 2 places on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China border where you can apply for a visa on arrival – Luo Hu (Lo Wu) and Huanggang. The time to process it and the passports they accept changes often. I strongly suggest applying for a Chinese visa in advance to streamline the process. You can apply in Hong Kong at a travel agency (see our blog post on getting a China visa) or while you are still in your home country.
Need a Chinese Passport Visa
To cross to Shenzhen, the majority of global citizens will need a Chinese visa. Actually I don’t know of any that does not require it. China was the first country I had entered into where I needed a visa — normally a US passport is pretty powerful.
Before traveling, you should find a visa agency to help you obtain the needed visa, and there are a bunch in Hong Kong or in your home country. I have used Visa Rite in the past, which is based in the USA, and I did it before I traveled to Asia. Usually if you apply for a visa from your home country, you will be granted a longer stay than if you apply from Hong Kong. You also need to decide if you will apply for a tourist or business visa. I have never applied for a tourist visa; I just wanted to pay the slightly higher fee to be on a business visa to avoid any issues.
Please note, a business visa isn’t for working in China. It is for a traveling businessman visiting Chinese companies with intent or interest in doing business with them. If you want to work in China, you will need a residence permit, but this is off topic for today’s post.
Join Our Border Crossing Wechat Group
Heading to China? Then you probably will download and use Wechat app! We recommend you add us (globalfromasia) and then tell us that you want to join our Wechat group, all about border crossing, for real time help! Scan the QR code to add us.
Visa On Arrival
This image of the price list below was taken at the Luo Ho (Lo Wu) border by a friend Nick in Feb 2017. I’ll try to keep these updated.
A hot and common topic is – how can I get a visa on arrival. On September 2016, my friend David just entered into Shenzhen and got a Chinese visa for 150 RMB (about 20 USD) for six days – with his Austrian passport. His American associate, Eric, got one as well but instead for about 900 RMB ($150 USD).
This is only possible at the Luo Ho border control point. If taking the Hong Kong MTR, go to the Lo Wu stop. You will leave Hong Kong border, and then go to the 2nd floor on the China border side to apply.
David tried to confirm if he could get a visa on arrival before flying to Hong kong. He asked the Austrian embassy, but they said the policy is always changing. He also asked in Hong Kong airport, and they said it is always changing.
When I asked about US citizens getting visa on arrival last year, for the Cross Border Summit, I was told it wasn’t possible.
So short answer – it is a hit or miss. If you can’t get it – then you’d need to stay in Hong kong and apply at a visa agency or the Chinese embassy directly. It is a balance of world politics and emotions it seems. Good luck!
Visa On Arrival At Huanggang Border OK
I met Suzie from StringStory.co on her first trip to China at the Huanggang border (July 2017). She was able to get the visa on arrival; no problem with her Australian passport – at Huanggang border. I even got a short video clip
Questions from Readers
Hi, Thanks for your blog. I have a 10 year multiple entry visa 60 days stay, before 60-day limit expires, I thought that I could exit to Hong Kong and re-enter China for a fresh recount. But, since Hong Kong is taken over by China on July 1st, 1997, it’s part of China. Thus, I am not sure if it would be a valid exit. Your advice would be highly appreciated.
Hong Kong does count as leaving China to get your exit stamp. You can then re-enter Mainland China by land to the border (to Shenzhen) or fly back in.
This is newbie question from me (and probably something you don’t need to include in the post). If you have a U.S passport and say you have a layover in a Chinese airport en route to Hong Kong, do you need any kind of transit visa?Jessica
If you’re not leaving the Chinese airport, you are fine. You will just have to wait at the international terminal until your flight to Hong Kong (or anywhere outside of Mainland China) destination.
Hi! Yesterday I went from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and got the 5 days visa on arrival until the 5th of May. Due to an appointment I need to go back to Hong Kong tomorrow, on the 2nd. Am I allowed to go back to Shenzhen then with the visa I already got and stay in Shenzhen again till the 5th? Lisa
Please remember that visa on arrival is for a single entry. Meaning, it is invalidated when the visa expires or when you exit China. As we said in our responses to the prior questions, going back to Hong Kong is already considered an exit from China. Hence, you would need to get another when you go back to Shenzhen.
Popular Question: Can I Just Cross Back And Forth Without Waiting?
We always get questions on this border guide. Here’s a common one:
Hi Michael, just found your website. Thank you for the great article. Just have a quick question. Can I exit from Shenzhen from HK and return on the same day on a 10 year multiple entry tourist visa? Thank you!Silvia
My Answer: So happy you enjoyed the blog – yes – sure you can enter and exit both sides for 1 day and come back. Many do this for personal shopping haha.
Update June 23, 2017 from an American, Visa on Arrival
We just got an update from Steven, a blog reader about the US citizen visa on demand:
Just a quick heads up on the visa on arrival at LoWu border. I was there a couple of weeks ago. Yes, they do issue a 5 day visa on arrival for American passport holders which apparently costs 900 something RMB! That’s quite expensive for a single entry! For other nationalities it will cost something between 180RMB to 300RMB I believe.
China E-Channel (Fast Lane)
Are you a regular border hopping nomad or business owner? In August 2016 the Chinese government has allowed foreigners to get an e-channel. It’s for those who are “permanent” in China. Think that is you? Then read our full e-channel guide here.
Hong Kong Frequent Traveler Pass
For those who want to save time crossing to Hong Kong and don’t have a Hong Kong ID, you should consider applying for a Hong Kong Travel Pass. You will be able to go to the special Hong Kong resident line rather than the visitor line–often saving a ton of time entering Hong Kong (Note: this is for the Hong Kong side of the border, not Mainland China side). You need to have been stamped in and out of the Hong Kong airport at least three times in the last year, received a letter from a HK resident why you need the pass, and a supporting letter from your business on why you need to cross. The application is Hong Kong immigration form id888 and the fee is 575 HKD. If you want to read the full details of the process, my buddy Marshall wrote up a nice article on it via Hong Kong (HKSAR) Travel Pass – The SECRET to crossing the border quickly!
Update on Oct 27, from reader Lainy: HK E-channel that can be obtained at the HK airport (the free echannel) can only be secured BEFORE baggage claim as soon as you get your passport stamped going through HK customs. You can’t leave customs, then try to go back in and get the HK e-channel. I believe the counter is open till 11:30. It took me five minutes to get mine, and it is well worth it!! I only had to prove I entered HK several times over the past year, which I had done from the SZ border and not from the airport.
APEC Travel Card (APTC)
Update: A hot topic in the comment section of this post, you can also get an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Travel Card. I applied for it and was approved. It has greatly improved my border crossing time!
So thankful for those who left a comment about this so openly. I wrote a full blog post about my experience called “How to Get An APEC Travel Card.
Keep the comments and feedback coming!
HK Immd Mobile App (Shows You The Waiting Times)
Update: September 2016 – a reader let us know about a mobile app from the Hong Kong government
I read “Hong Kong to/from China Border Crossing Guide”.
And then I found the (new ?) App from Hong Kong Immigration Department, where you can look after waiting times at all borders to / from China Mainland.
I think it will be a good idea to insert a link in your article.
Hong Kong ImmD Mobile App features information on these services:
* Land Boundary Control Points Waiting Time Enquiry;
* Easy Access YouTube (in China?)
* Electronic Services;
* Online Application Status Enquiry;
* Visa Information;
* Office Addresses and Hours of ImmD Offices and Control Points;
* Frequently Asked Questions;
* Please note: This mobile application requires an internet connection.
So I will be using this so long as I have internet connection there!