British nationals need a visa to enter mainland China, including Hainan Island, but not Hong Kong or Macao. Separate Travel Advice for Hong Kong can be found here.
Eligibility for visas for travel to China remains restricted. At present, visas are issued for:
- applicants who have obtained an “Invitation Letter” or “Verification Confirmation of Invitation” issued by a provincial foreign affairs office or department of commerce (M or F visa)
- applicants who have obtained a “Notification Letter of Foreigners Work Permit” (Z visa)
- applicants intending to visit a family member with a Z, M, or F visa
- applicants intending to visit a family member who is a Chinese citizen or who holds a Chinese permanent residence permit
- applicants (including dependents) who qualify for a high-level talent (R) visa
- applicants who qualify for a transport crew (C) visa
All visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 inclusive need to make their visa application in person at a Visa Application Centre. As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) has to be provided. The Chinese Visa Application Centres in London, Manchester and Edinburgh are operating but with limited opening hours. The Application Centre in Belfast remains closed.
Biometric data may be checked/collected by the immigration authorities when entering China to register your entry to the country.
More details, including the process for submitting forms for those still eligible, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
It is currently not possible to apply for a visa waiver to transit through China. All travellers entering into China must comply in full with entry requirements; there are no exemptions to this, and transiting airside is not currently permitted.
If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China and wish to return to the mainland, you will need a visa that allows you to make a second entry into China.
It is your responsibility to check your visa details carefully. Do not overstay your visa or work illegally. The authorities conduct regular checks and you may be fined, detained or deported (or all three).
If you remain in China longer than 6 months, you may need to get a Residence Permit.
Further details on visa requirements can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
If you’re already in China and have a visa enquiry, please contact the National Immigration Hotline: 12367 (option 2 for English).
COVID-19 Entry Requirements
From 8 January 2023, China has changed its COVID-19 entry requirements for all travellers entering the country. You will need a negative PCR test within 48 hours of boarding your flight to China. You must submit your negative PCR test result by filling in the Health Declaration Form via the China Customs website, or through the China Customs App or WeChat account. Anyone reporting a positive test result will not be permitted to board a flight to China.
Passengers entering China displaying symptoms of fever, or with an abnormal Health Declaration, may be asked to undertake an antigen test on arrival. Those who test positive will be released to self-quarantine if symptoms are mild, or recommended to go to a medical institution for diagnosis and treatment if symptoms are more severe.
Children and young people
Children aged 5 and under are still required to apply for a Customs Code Health Declaration Form.
Transiting through a third country to arrive in China
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
Transiting through a third country to China is permitted.
If you transfer through a third country to China, you must certify that you have completed a PCR test within 48 hours of your arrival in China via the China Customs website, app, or WeChat account. This must be completed before boarding your final flight to China.
Registering with the Chinese authorities
You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Chinese authorities enforce this requirement with regular spot-checks of foreigners’ documentation. If you’re staying in a hotel, they will do this for you as part of the check-in process.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Working in China
You can only work in China if you have a Z visa - tourist and business visit visas do not allow you to do so. You must also hold a valid work permit. The local police regularly carry out checks on companies/schools. Violation of Chinese immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, deportation, a travel ban preventing you from leaving China, and an exclusion order, which prevents you from returning.
Before you leave the UK you should contact the Chinese Embassy to check visa requirements. When submitting your visa application, and when you receive your work permit, check that the details are correct, including the location you’ll be working in. If they’re not, you can be detained.
If you intend to change employer once you’re in China, you should check with the Chinese authorities whether a new visa and work permit is needed before doing so.
Teaching in China
Teaching in China can be a rewarding experience, but before you travel it’s important that you research thoroughly the school or university that is hiring you and are confident that they are following the law. There have been many incidents of teachers being detained and/or deported for working on the wrong visas. It is your responsibility to check you’re working on the correct visa.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are visiting China, your passport should be valid for 6 months from the date you arrive.