How to get a visa in China as a US citizen? (2023 Complete Guide)

Adam Rozsa

Planning a trip to China for work, business or a vacation? You’ll need to check out the visa situation.

In this guide, we’ll run through everything you need to know about the China visa for US citizens. This includes who needs one, how to apply and how much it costs.

And to cover your spending in China, we’ll take a quick look at the Wise card too.


Do US citizens need a visa to go to China?

Yes, you’ll need to get a visa to enter China, even if you’re only staying for a few days.

The only exception is if you’re transiting through China, and need to stay there overnight for a layover.

You’ll need to get your visa before traveling, and also make sure you have at least 6 months validity remaining on your passport.

Types of China visa for US citizens

There are a few different types of Chinese visa available for US citizens. The main one you need to know about is the tourist visa, but you can also get visas for family visits, work and business.

Let’s take a look:¹

1: Tourist visa (L)

This is the visa for you if you’re visiting China for a vacation or tourist trip, or if you’re visiting family. You can stay between 60 and 90 days.

If you plan to make many trips back to the country in the future, you might want to take a look at the 10 year China visa for US citizens.

2: Business visa (M or F)

If you need to visit China for a conference, research visit or other non-commercial reasons, you’ll need an F visa.

The China business visa for US citizens lets you stay between 30 and 90 days.

If you’re visiting for commercial activities and trade, you’ll need an M visa. You’ll need an invitation from a business based in China to apply for this visa.

Importantly, while you can conduct business activities in China with this visa, you’re not permitted to work.

3: Work visa (Z)

To work and earn money in China, you’ll need to apply for a Z visa. A key requirement is to have a job offer in place from a Chinese company, and you can stay for 3 months.

However, you may be able to renew your work visa or apply for a residence permit after that.

China visa requirements for US citizens

The requirements and documents needed vary depending on which visa type you’re applying for. But generally, you’ll need to have:¹

  • A valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining and at least two blank pages
  • A photocopy of the bio page of the passport
  • Round-trip air tickets, or an invitation from a company like a travel agency
  • Proof of residence
  • A completed form relating to where you’ll be staying in China
  • Copy of green card or visa if you’re not a US citizen.

China visa fees for US citizens

The China tourist visa for US citizens costs $185 USD.²

The application fee is also the same for other visa types, which makes things a little simpler.

You can also pay an additional $25 for express turnaround, which knocks a day off the average visa processing time. ²

Low-cost spending in China with the Wise card

When you have your visa sorted, it’s time to think about how you’ll cover your costs when in China.

The Wise card is the ideal choice for low-cost international spending, as it offers the following features:

  • Spend and withdraw cash from ATMs in 150+ countries, including China
  • Have your USD automatically converted to CNY at the mid-market exchange rate, whenever you spend. There’s just a small fee to convert the currency, and no transaction fees.
  • Withdraw up to $100 from overseas ATMs for free (although ATM operators may charge their own fees).

The Wise card is available for a one-time fee of just $9 when you open a Wise Account. This account also lets you send money to and from China with low and transparent fees.

Wise is a money service business, offering a multi-currency account, international money transfer services and a debit card.

Get a Wise Account today

Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

Applying for a visa for China - step-by-step guide

So, how does a US citizen get a visa for China? Let’s run through the steps involved in the application process:¹

  1. Get all your documents together and check the remaining validity on your passport.
  2. Go to the China Online Visa Application (COVA) website to fill in all of the required forms
  3. Go to the Appointment for Visa Application Submission (AVAS) website to make an appointment to submit your application at a Visa Office in the US.
  4. Attend your appointment, taking all completed forms and required documents with you.
  5. If your application is successful, pay your fee when you go to collect your visa.

How long does it take to get a Chinese visa for a US citizen?

The average processing time to get a Chinese visa is just 4 working days.

However, you can pay an extra fee of $25 to get your visa in 3 working days, an option designed for urgent situations.²

Is a China visa being given to US citizens in 2023?

Yes, following the Covid-19 pandemic, China resumed issuing visa types to all foreigners in March 2023.³

Bottom line

And that’s it - all the essentials you need to know about the China visa for US citizens. You should be ready to gather your documents, fill in the forms and get your application in. Then you can get back to the exciting part - planning your trip!

Make sure to check out the Wise card for vacation spending.

Learn more about Wise

And read our handy guides to money and ATMs in China, the cost of living and how to open a Chinese bank account.

Sources used for this article:

  1. Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States - Requirements for Chinese Visa Application
  2. Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States - Visa Processing Time & Fees
  3. Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malaysia - Notice on New Adjustments to Chinese Visa and Entry Policies (March 2023)

Sources checked on 14-Jul-2023.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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