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Chinese Visa's
New Family Visit Visa (August 2012)
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has finally made changes to its policy concerning foreigners with family in China, and now offers a new 'Family Visit Visa' for those who meet specific criteria - which is intrinsically related to having family in China. This new visa can be either Tourist (L) or Residency (D) = But you begin with 'L'.

At first we were informed this was a new type of residency visa, but this is not quite the case. This is a special type of tourist visa or residency visa that can only be issued to people with immediate family living in China.

Latest Information (4th September 2010)

Yesterday I collected my new Family Visit visa, which is an 'L' or Tourist visa. It lasts for 6-months, has multiple entries, and most importantly, has no restrictions on length of stay - other than the full 6-months.

Collection only took a couple of minutes. I handed over my official receipt, the girl found it and I was asked to sign for it. Simple.

The first application for a Family Visit visa is for a 6-month one as an 'L' or Tourist visa as shown. I have been informed by the PSB that next time I can apply for a 1-year Family Visit Visa, which will be a 'D' or Residency visa. This can be very important for long term visitors!

Contrast this with my previous visa, of which foreigners will pay Y2, 000 for either: a 3-month Tourist double entry visa with 30-day maximum stay; or a 3-month Tourist single entry visa with 90 maximum stay.

Image: New Family Visit Visa - Click to Enlarge

Image: Old Tourist Visa with 90 Day stay - Click to Enlarge

China Expats Director Jonno has now become the proud possessor of a 1-year Chinese Residency or 'D' visa - so know the system work!

Important Points:

1. Your address in China is that as given in your Chinese family's 'Family Registration Book' (Unless you have your own?)
A Hukou (simplified Chinese: 户口; traditional Chinese: 戶口; pinyin: hùkǒu) or huji (simplified Chinese: 户籍; traditional Chinese: 戶籍; pinyin: hùjí) refers to the system of residency permits which dates back to ancient China, where household registration is required by law in People's Republic of China and Republic of China (Taiwan).

2. First application is always for a 'new visa', and this is an 'L' or Tourist visa; 6-months, continual stay, multi-entry. Cost: less than Y1K or 1, 000 RMB.
      a. Second visa is classed as an 'extension', and can be for 6 or 12 months.
            i. Any visa over 6-months duration requires a Medical Exam
                (Certificate of Health Examination for International Traveller).
      b. If you are over 60 years old, then subsequent visa's can be for 2-years (Conditions apply).
            i. We are assured there is a similar dispensation for 'minors' holding foreign nationality, but with one or both parents being Chinese Nationals.
      c. Please get your mind right. These new rules are primarily to assist ABC's, BBC's, TBC's; etc. You may also note that Taiwan has been in the travellers' news recently. Therefore, please respect this offer if it applies to you and your own family - as it opens previously closed doors for a few Western Expats.

3. 1 year visa's and over are classed as 'Residency' visa's = "D visa"!

4. In Jiangmen City, your first 'Family Visa' will take 3-weeks to process, require every supporting form or Certificate that you possess, and everything requires photocopying. Your sponsor (Wife etc) needs to be physically there with you! If you have a child that is Chinese by Nationality - then they need to be there also + their Birth Certificate; et al.
      a. Having a blood-child with Chinese Nationality greatly enhances your bona fides
      b. For Chinese with other nationality: having your parent present (Direct blood relative and Chinese National Citizen) is also 'a must!'
     c. In Jiangmen subsequent applications are classed as 'extensions', and will be processed in 1-week.

Sure, this stuff is a bit complex, but very easy once you accept this is a special dispensation by Beijing. Most Expats who have chosen to live in China + raise a family, will tell you the chance of a 'D' visa is like finding Ambrosia on a dusty, arid plain!

Details as follows:

How to Apply!

Updated 14th August 2010

Where issued The main city PSB for your greater area. Local PSB, the ones who issue your Certificate of Temporary Residency (CTR), will tell you where to get information.
What you need   1. Your passport (With current visa and Certificate of Temporary Residency)
2. Marriage Certificate or Birth Certificate if child of Chinese sponsor.
3. Your spouses Chinese Identity Card
4. If your child is born in China, [or not born in China]: you can use their Chinese Identity Card.
5. Family Book
6. Registration form (From same PSB as CTR) and also available at place of application.
7. Very recent photographs with receipt. Must be to specified standard and less than 1-month old!
8. The fee (Expect change from 1, 000 RMB).
  This is for a 6-month multi-entry Tourist visa.

Image: New Family Visit Visa - Click to Enlarge
1-year visa 1. As above plus:
2. Health check done at specified centre at your own expense.
This is for a 1 year multi-entry Residence visa.
2-year visa 1. For 60 year old and over.
2. May also apply to children of Chinese nationals who have a child with foreign passport?
3. As top plus:
4. Health check done at specified centre at your own expense.
This is for a 2 year multi-entry Residence visa.
How long does it take? How long is a piece of string?
This varies greatly with location, but expect this to take between a few days and several months. Several weeks is normal.

How does the visa renewal process work?

In August 2012 I got a new 1-year Family Visit Visa from the Public Security Bureau in Jiang Men City, Guangdong. The requirements in your main city may vary slightly. I will begin this story on 1st August for ease of tracking. This was the first time I did everything on my own:

Official Photographs:

1st August, I went down to my local photograph shop and had my picture taken. You need to ensure they know this is for a visa renewal, as there are many different types and formats of Official Chinese photographs. Even though this was my first time in the shop, everything was settled quickly, as I had brought along the remains of last years photos. The whole thing was conducted entirely in Cantonese, and took a couple of minutes.

Chinese Medical Examination

2nd August, I collected the photographs at 8A.M., and caught the coach to Gongmuen (Jiang Men) City. There is only one approved Hospital in each City/County district, so you need to be at the right one. In Gongmuen the building is dedicated solely to processing medical examinations, mainly for Chinese citizens who require a medical for work purposes. I have never seen another foreigner there yet, although the staff do speak English.

The point of the examination is to determine whether you pose a health risk to China. They are looking for dangerous diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and psychological disorders. However, you do get a full medical check in the process.

Documents required: 4 x official photographs, passport. If you have a previous booklet from an earlier examination, take it with you, because you are in The System - Makes things much easier for everyone. Fee: Y325 RMB. Fill in the form they give you, and give them a slip of paper with your address and spouses contact details on it, and they will fill in the Chinese characters for you.

There are about 8 main processes, that include many other tests. You will be taking your shoes off and on for most of these, so this year I brought along some flip-flops. Very easy.This was all conducted in Cantonese, except for the Bloodwork where the lady only spoke Mandarin. We got by in Chinglish. Oh, and one of the other Doctors was very bright and chatty, so we practiced her English, which was excellent.The whole thing took about 20-minutes.

When done, I took all my paperwork down to reception where we had some fun with my Cantonese. I was told the results would be ready at 5 P.M. (5.30 close), the next day, or available from the next morning.

Family Book

4th August. Every Chinese person is officially registered in the Family Book. This is normally held by the most senior male of the family, and is handed down to the next upon death (Usually death of the generation). My wife's Family Book is technically held by her father's elder brother. Perhaps because of me, it is usually found in the safekeeping of her mother.

I needed it, and my wife was working, so I went to get it myself. I had presumed they would have spoken about this on the phone, but apparently not. However, Siu Ying (My wife), had written down what I needed, and it was duly given to me.

Visa renewal

5th August; I returned to the Medical Centre and received my new Chinese Medical booklet upon production of receipt. They also included 2 x full medical reports, with picture. Time taken: 1-minute.

I arrived at the PSB visa place and we had a comedy of errors, that I will write about later today in one of my missives. So that I know what I need next time, here is a list:
1. Photocopy of the page of the Family Book showing my wife's details.
2. Photocopy of the main page of my wife's marriage booklet (We get one each).
3. Photocopy of my wife's Identity Card, or your immediate sponsor.
4. A photocopy of every page of the new Health certificate (4 pages).
5. Passport: Photocopies of: My details page, My existing visa page, AND a copy of the page that shows my last 'new visa' entry to China.

Let me explain the last one in detail. The last time I entered China was November 2011, after a holiday in Thailand. This does not count. What they want is the copy of the stamp for the first entry of the last visa you obtained outside of China Mainland, in my case: Hong Kong. For the third time running they have chosen 10th October 2008, although I know it was the middle of November 2010.I cannot find the stamp, although some are unreadable. As long as the PSB are happy, then so am I.

Visa Processing

I collected a form for a new visa application from a dedicated desk set to one side of the main hall. It is in both Chinese and English, and I filled in as much as I could on my own. I got the photocopies done at the shop just outside the complex, and also attached a photograph - the only one I needed.

Once everything was in order, I went back to the girl and she checked the form, filling in our Chinese address and my wife's name, in Chinese, using a slip of paper Siu Ying gave me. The entire process up till now had been completed in Cantonese, and I was given a number for the queue.

On my 2 previous occasions I had been here just after 8 A.M., and the place was empty. This time it was 10.30, and the large hall was rammed. I got to see one of the two Police checking forms, and I was done. He only spoke Mandarin, not one single word of Cantonese; so my practicing of 'Passy-port' and 'veeza' in Cantonese were soon forlorn hopes cast adrift upon a wave of good intentions. However, his English was excellent!

Documents required:
1. All the photocopies listed above (10).
2. The official printed photograph receipt, must not be more than 1-month old.
3. 1 copy of the full Medical Report.
4. Original copy of your Certificate of Temporary Residence (Best you have a photocopy of this for the interim).
5. Your passport. From memory, I think this must have 18-months left on it as minimum (For a 1-year visa).

The original documents were quickly and professionally checked against the originals, and I was told to come back in one week's time.

Last thing to complete the process, is to pay the bill. Y800 RMB handed over to the cashier, and I am away.

Now my only proof of identity lies with the visa application receipt, the payment application receipt, and the copy I made of my Temporary Residence Certificate (Now technically cancelled). Not the time to go travelling to strange new parts.

Return Family Book

7th August: I returned to The Village and handed my mother-in-law the Family Book back. The travelling is around 1-hour each way, but it is always good family time.

Collect new visa

12th August, and an event that has not occurred yet. If my last times are repeated, then I simply turn up with receipt, join the queue, and receive my new 1-year Residency visa (Restriction: I am not allowed to work in China. With a full Residency Visa I am). It will be a multi-entry visa with no length of stay restrictions, apart from the life of the visa itself.

So there you are: this is what I actually had to do. I hope it helps you personally, but remember, your City-County may have slightly differing criteria and timescale's.

But of course, things did not go quite as smoothly as depicted above. If you want to read about what really happened, then I am writing a funny missive about it now, which should be posted *In the AM*.


This information is now complete, as China Expats Director, Jonno, has received his 2012 visa.

There is also a supporting page for the Chinese Medical Examination

Below are some scans that you may find useful:

Family Book Image: Family Book - Click to Enlarge   Official Chinese Photograph Receipt Image: Official receipt for visa photograph
Receipt for Application Image: Official receipt for visa application - Click to Enlarge   Receipt for Payment Image: Application Payment Receipt - Click to Enlarge

When your application is processed, your current visa is automatically cancelled as of that moment. This also means your Certificate of Temporary Residence (CTR) is also cancelled forthwith. They also retain your passport of course, which means that your only proof of identity lies with the two receipts as shown directly above!

We strongly advise you to take quality colour photocopies of your important passport pages including 'current visa', and CTR. We would suggest that you also copy the receipts and keep the copies with you at all times. Local Police will be aware of your situation, but this does not apply outside your local region of application.

Comparison to a full Residency (D) visa
A Residency or 'D' visa usually lasts for either 5 or 10 years, but has severe restrictions before application may begin (5 years living in China, concurrent with: 5 years married and living with a Chinese National spouse + other criteria).

The Family Visit Visa crosses these boundaries, but offers shorter term stay, and not full privileges. For example: Holders of a FV visa are not allowed to work in China. Full D visa holders are allowed to work.

However, the marriage and stay requirements have been waived, thus just so long as you are married to a Chinese National, and she is living in China + have next of kin family sponsor (eg. Wife) - appears to be all that is required.

The above came from a news article published in China Daily, as rendered below:

The new Family Visit Visa applies to Foreigners and Overseas Chinese, with special exceptions for those aged over 60. The full text from China Daily is reproduced below:
Multiple entries, exits set to help foreigners with close kin in China

BEIJING - Starting next month, foreigners who have close relatives in China will be able to apply for residence permits that are valid for up to two years, the Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday.

Residence permits do not have limits on the number of entries and exits, which will "greatly facilitate the travel of foreigners", a ministry official told China Daily. Currently, foreigners who come to China to visit family members should apply for an "L visa", which is valid for up to one year. Under existing rules, the visa has limits on the frequency of entries and exits. But with more foreigners visiting their close relatives in China, the ministry has decided to grant residence permits to them to make their travel more convenient, said an official surnamed Jia with the ministry's exit and entry administration bureau.

The new rule stipulates that if foreigners need to stay in China for more than six months, they can apply for residence permits that are valid for one or two years if they fall under the following five categories:

* Foreign spouses, parents, and children under 18 of Chinese citizens or foreigners who have permanent residence status in China.

* Foreigners older than 60, and their spouses, who do not have immediate family abroad and come to China to live with their immediate family. The immediate family members in China can be Chinese citizens or foreigners who have permanent residence status in China.

*Overseas Chinese aged above 60 who have bought houses in China, and their foreign spouses and children aged below 18.

*Overseas Chinese older than 18 who come to China to take care of their Chinese parents, who have reached 60 and do not have any children in China.

*Foreign children under 18 being taken care of in China and whose parents are overseas Chinese or Chinese citizens who hold permanent residence permits in other countries.

Under the new rule, the validity of the residence permit can also be extended when it expires. The full text of the rule is posted on the ministry's website at
Note: This links to a Chinese language page which we presume to be current. There is an English language option that only has news snippets from 2005 and 2006.

Jia said that currently, foreigners under the five categories all need to apply for an "L visa". Under the existing rules, residence permits are only granted to foreigners who come to study and work in China. More than 400,000 foreigners have gained residence permits in China, official figures showed.

Yuan Shuping, a Beijinger who married a German 10 years ago, said on Thursday that she has been looking forward to such measures for a long time.

"My husband's family members come to China to visit us every year and every time they need to apply for L visas that allow a single entry, which is troublesome," she said. "I am very delighted to see that my husband's relatives will be able to apply for residence permits since he already got permanent residence in 2006," she said. "I'm sure they will come to see us more often in future." China Daily

Reproduced with thanks under Collective Commons 3 licence

Whilst the new rules are now law, it appears the Public Security Bureau headquarters in Beijing has only issued guidelines. This in turn means that each First Class City (Like a County) will adopt its own criteria for implementation within its own region. Therefore we expect this to be a simple formality in some areas, and a bit of a nightmare in others!

We are also very interested to hear from others who apply for this new visa.
This information is as supplied by China Expats and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (PSB) as dated 7th August 2012; and supported by China Daily newspaper, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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