by Toffler



March ’08 Changes in Visa rules for Foreigners Residing in China

March 7, 2008, by TofflerN, category Uncategorized

As of Wednesday night, March 5, 2008, the entry/exit bureau significantly tightened visa rules for foreigners, notably Americans, already residing in China. This applies to anyone hold F Business visas and L Tourist visas. Those with employer-sponsored work permits or student visas aren’t really affected. However, any foreigner holding an F or L visa which expires(d) before the Olympics will face serious difficulties extending his/her visa or obtaining a new one; Americans are especially limited in their options. This is to restrict the number of foreigners living in China and to more closely monitor their activities in the lead up to the Olympics. For whatever reason these rules seem to be more strictly enforced in Guangzhou and Shanghai, which seems ironic if they’re trying to protect Beijing for the Olympics. Holding Olympics tickets doesn’t help either (my German friend tried that route). Leaving the country to get a new visa in Hong Kong or elsewhere is no guarantee either. Now the details (most applicable to Americans though other countries also face stricter policies): No renewing, extending or obtaining a new F visa for anyone currently here on F. Foreigners can no longer apply for visas without the Form of Temporary Residence (issued by the local PSB). Any long-term (more than 30days) F or L visa issued to a foreigner will expire before July 15, though more likely before July 1. I know all this because my visa was set to expire soon and panic mode set in as my options were quickly diminishing. The options I was given:

– Leave!! (as one visa agent so insistently put it to me);
– Get hired by a company that will sponsor a Z work visa;
– Pay CNY4500 (US$630) for a 6month Student Visa (normally 6month visas for Americans are about CNY2000);
– Get a visa which is only valid for 1month and therefore requires leaving the country every 30days.

Well none of those options were particularly suited to me so I kept searching. I found 1 agent in Changchun, an industrial city in Dongbei province, who could help me get a visa until July 15 and another 1 in Beijing who could get me a single-entry visa valid until July 1. Traveling to Beijing or Changchun in the hope these people would actually be able to help me out was not ideal. More searching revealed a couple of agents in Shanghai who offered alternatives, though seemingly less legit alternatives. One guy told me to bring my resume and photos and he’d find me a company to sponsor my work visa, though there was no intention of me actually working for any company. Another said they could extend my current F visa for 6months for far less than the CNY4500 the 6month Student visa would cost. This sounded too good to be true.

Any foreigner seeking to renew or extend an F or L visa between now and the Olympics is going to, at best, have problems or pay extra money and at worst be totally without options and required to leave the country. If you’re wondering, why not just overstay the visa, because its CNY500 per day for doing so. Good luck to everyone facing the same situation.

Other info and experiences with the situation:

Update Friday, April, 18th:

The visa policy has gotten even stricter recently (last 2-3weeks). The WSJ’s report on visa applications in HK said no more multiple entry visas were being issued in HK until after the Olympic Games. My friend also confirmed this when he tried to use the same agent in Shanghai that I used who said they could no get any visa valid longer than 1 month.  I’m sorry to everyone who will need visa renewals between now and the Olympics, but I can’t help you.  Just be happy with a 1 month visa.


  1. Vicky |

    Well all this just adds more fear to my already very fearful mind! My F visa runs out in June. So you think theres no chance of me getting an L 3 month visa in HK at that point? I had heard the F was to be got rid of as of July 1st, so thought of changing it to an L and those three months would see me through to the end of the Games when I had planned on leaving anyway. Anyone have any help to offer?

    And so what have you done ref the guy who said he can get you an extension ? All news is welcome!

    Thanks for posting this.

    At the end of the day, if you do overstay, the maximum fine you pay is 5000yuan, so it may be worth it to some people!

  2. mjbphx |

    I tried emailing the visa office of the Los Angeles consulate to ask them about this situation, and despite copying and pasting the email from the website, the email bounced back as “no host by that name.”

  3. TofflerN |

    I got my passport with visa back! Everything seems to be fine. Send me an email if you want the contact info of the agent I used.

  4. termx |

    Got my 3-month multiple entry visa this week from one of the visa service companies in HK. According to them, the china visa office there will only be giving max of 1 month visas (F/L) starting May 1 until Oct 15.

  5. Dana Ann |

    My F visa expires April 26 and I have a job until June 30. My employeer, a school, claims they can get me a 2-month extension. However, it is not exactly legal. I want to be able to return to China every year or so in the future. Do you this might risk it? Does overstaying a visa look bad for future visa applications to China? Any advice would help! I get contradicting advice here! I am American. Any advice…I live in Hangzhou.

  6. Fei |

    I’m in HongKong now getting my visa extended… hopefully my school can get me a Z visa when i get back, but the company said they just changed the rules and ill be lucky to get 20 days for my tourist visa, they also had to forge a bunch of travel documents for me… (this is the company at the train station)

  7. Lost in beijing |

    I have a question regarding the current VISA-situation and hope that someone can help me as I am getting a lot of different answers.
    I am in Beijing on an F-VISA for 3 months with multiple entries..
    My Visa expires half of May and I should work here as an intern untill the end of August. My work informed me that they can only get me a VISA untill 01/07, which would be a single entry one. And after that it will be very difficult to get another one.
    My question is, does it help if I would leave the country now and come back again (as my VISA states entry before 30/05). Will I then be allowed again to stay 120 days from the re-entry date?
    I know that this worked in the past, but does someone know if this is still the case? Because then I would be able to stay untill the august.

    Thank you, if you know something about this.
    I have been trying to contact agencies, embassies, entr/exit admin but no-one really knows…

  8. subha |

    hi…i am in visa will expire in mid may but i need my business visa extension, at least 30days will be ok if i get it continuously from hong kong, i am an indian. Can anyone please suggest me any agent in hong kong who can help me to get at least 30days visa from hong kong itself as long as these restrictions on business visa are not lifted…thanks if anyone can help me out of this miserable condition

  9. Pat |

    Hi , i am in Beijing and my Visa would expire June 30th ,
    Can someone please help me with an agent that can help extend my Visa ?? am ready to pay the fees , I dont wanna get Overstayed in China ,

    I need a 3 Month or 6 Month Single or Multiple Entry , Please email me at
    patricklexx AT yahoo DOT com

    I would really appreciate your Help.


  10. Nikita |

    I have 30 day, business F visa. I entered China on July 18th and flying out August 18th. This is technically 31 days, will it be a problem to overstay one day? I have already bought my hotel and olympic tickets, and really do not want to cancel everything just to leave China earlier by one day.

So, what do you think ?