I live in the UK and I’m 18. My Chinese girlfriend wants me to come to China with her for a month in March. We will be staying with her family so I only need a return ticket. But is there anything else I need such as a visa or anything like that. I have never been abroad before.

Sorry if the question is too vague or if this is in the wrong place but thanks in advance for any answers.

  • Are you a British citizen? If so, this may help gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china – Traveller Oct 26 '18 at 12:42
  • Allow plenty of time for the Visa. You will most likely need to show up in person to have your fingerprints taken. However, it looks like you don't need the invitation letter (or copy of the airline tickets) any more. See bio.visaforchina.org/#/guideNav/steps/step1 – Hilmar Oct 27 '18 at 11:44
  • @Hilmar The biometrics requirement takes effect on 1 November, as I understand. Though I wouldn't be surprised if the consulate was already doing it. – Michael Hampton Oct 27 '18 at 16:23

Many countries you travel to will require you to obtain a visa, depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit. It is also possible to travel without a visa, depending again on the country and purpose of your visit. For instance, British citizens can travel to the USA for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa, but working would require a visa.

But China does require a visa for British citizens to visit. China does allow for online application for visas, so you can go to their official website, choose your nearest city, and follow the application process.

The thing you will need to choose carefully is the type of visa you apply for. China has many types of visas (e.g. tourist, family visit, work visas). Since you aren't married yet, you should probably choose the L visa (independent tourist).

You will need to deliver your passport and supporting documents to the Chinese embassy or consulate you have chosen using the instructions they give, and pay the visa fee. In a few days you will receive your passport and documents back. During the application process, you will choose whether you want them posted to you or if you will pick them up in person at the consulate.

Your visa will be a sticker placed on one of the blank pages in your passport.

After you receive your visa, check it carefully. Make sure all of the information is correct, and that its validity dates include the dates you intend to travel. If you find any errors, contact the consulate immediately, preferably by phone if possible.

If everything looks good on your visa, then you are ready to go!

Also, note that the UK Government publish country-specific information for British citizens travelling abroad. It is a good idea to review the information available for any country you are planning to visit.

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  • 1
    A kind and generous answer! – Fattie Oct 27 '18 at 3:39
  • Even though we have been married for 30 years we still use the L visas. We mark both tourism and visiting family on the arrival card, nobody has objected. – Loren Pechtel Oct 27 '18 at 13:44

In addition to the visa there's another issue you need to be aware of:

Since you are staying with her family you must register with the police within 24 hours of arrival (or 72 if you are in a rural area. I do not know what defines rural.) In theory you need the person who rents/owns the property to come with you to the station with paperwork that shows they live there, but in practice we have done so (in Shanghai) entirely on our own with no paperwork beyond our passports. I have heard varying stories of how much hassle is involved, for is it has never exceeded 15 minutes (plus up to 15 minutes waiting for our number to be called.)

The typical tourist stays in hotels and has little contact with this system--despite many visits the first time I saw any indication of it was last week and that was only signing the form. If you travel around China with them be careful--not all hotels accept foreigners and locals may mistakenly book a hotel that won't accept foreigners. Being turned away by your hotel and having to find a new one on the spur of the moment isn't fun. (However, if you are traveling with locals many places will turn a blind eye to the registration requirement so long as there is at least one local ID per room being rented. I would not suggest this unless you have registered at your relative's place for the duration of your stay--you don't want the computer to not have an address for you for some night unless you legitimately didn't have an address that night {say, an overnight train.})

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  • Last time I was there at a hotel they had webcam/monitors on the hotel desk to send photos of the registrants directly to the police (with some photos of armed officers and some text in Chinese that looked something like the "5 don'ts" on the screen). – Spehro Pefhany Oct 27 '18 at 16:15
  • @SpehroPefhany I think it varies from place to place exactly what the hotels do. In the past the hotel has done everything, we had no interaction with the system. This time there was a signature on the registration form. There was a webcam present but we didn't pose for it and my wife was definitely outside it's field of view. – Loren Pechtel Oct 28 '18 at 1:31

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