I have a very simple question. Hopefully it is appropriate for this site and not for a politics site. So here it goes: Why do Chinese people need a visa to travel abroad? What is the reasoning behind this policy? [P.S. Most people need visas to enter a country, not to exit it. I know in old East Germany people used to require visas to exit it being a communist country, but never understood it, plus it seems to me that China is now by and large a very capitalist country. (I am in particular concerned with the financial bank account requirements China places on its citizens wanting to go abroad).

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    Isn't that more of a politics question?
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 10:54
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    Keep in mind that the People's Republic of China is still a communist country, with Mao Zedong on the banknotes, governed by a single-party (the Communist Party of China), with patriotic communist songs sang at state events, etc. Commented May 30, 2016 at 14:10
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    This is a political discussion - everyone of a different political stripe will have a different answer. If you want to know, write a letter to the Chinese Embassy and forward the response to the US State Dept for a critique. Otherwise, you are creating a forum for likely uninformed speculation and political value judgements (like above) on a Travel Q&A.
    – dmgig
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 14:31
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    I thought you were asking why they need visas to enter other countries, not why they need visas to exit China (I didn't even know that was the case).
    – user541686
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 2:31
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    If I want a Chinese friend living in China to visit me outside of China that seems to me to be close to impossible. In my opinion this is absolutely not the case. "Close to impossible" would be the case if your friend were living f.ex. in North Korea. Chinese tourists are everywhere in huge numbers because exiting China is no big deal at all. BTW are you sure they need an exit visa ? Don't they simply need a passport just like anyone else ? Commented May 31, 2016 at 12:12

5 Answers 5


Requiring an extra visa or exit permit from citizens is not very common today but historically, that's why passports were invented (and not to restrict immigration) and the reason for that is simple: a large population was seen as the bedrock of power. You need many young people (and especially men) for labor-intensive industries and for the army. In many countries, passports are still used to prevent people from leaving but to a much more limited extent (for example by forcing people investigated for a serious crime to surrender their passport).

In richer countries, seeing large number of people leave is slightly less of an issue now (although in some parts of East Germany, Poland, and recently Spain, Portugal, Greece, the number of young, educated people leaving is actually a concern) and restricting citizens' rights to address it is not considered acceptable. Consequently, citizens enjoy a very strong right to come and go as they please within the country, to leave it and to reenter it without conditions (you will at most find some form of financial incentives, like grants that require to stay or come back to your country/region of origin or extra benefits for families).

There are many countries in the world where civil liberties don't weight so heavily in the balance and freedom of movement both within and out or in the country are simply not guaranteed. This type of restrictions is most famously associated with Warsaw Pact or Soviet Bloc countries but freedom of movement is not so tightly linked with capitalism as it might seem at first glance.

To be sure, the most liberal and democratic countries (e.g. in Western Europe) all have market economies but some also had severe restrictions on the movement of their population until the mid-19th century. On the other hand, China has been able to introduce increasing amounts of private ownership and trade in its economy without fully opening its society. Similarly, Russia's internal passports predate the Soviet Union, which just continued and extended a system that existed in Imperial Russia.

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    @Davor: when you compare countries across the whole world, it's pretty high on the scale, see e.g.: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – liori
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 20:12
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    @Davor I wrote "richer" (to be specific, it's almost twice as rich as China on a per capita basis) and I explicitly mentioned Poland as an example of a country without tight restrictions on travel where emigration is a concern so what's your point exactly? Poland is also definitely rich compared to most of the world or most of human history but that's not the point I was making.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 20:54
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    Incidentally, Argentina is also a rich country and that's not news, it was even one of the richest countries on earth at the beginning of the 20th century. How it end up having so many problems in spite of being a rich country is precisely what's notable about it so it's a very odd comparison point to pick to try to make Poland look poor.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 20:58
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    Even democracies check people leaving the country. India has a special emigration check for Indian citizens. While no longer as strict, at one time certain people were "tagged", and went through extra questioning before they were allowed to leave the country. Commented May 31, 2016 at 9:53
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    @ShantnuTiwari Interesting, I wasn't aware of that, thanks! But preventing people from leaving based on anything else than outstanding warrants or something like that still does seem questionable from a human rights perspective, even if some reasonably democratic countries do it.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 11:00

Here is a really interesting site that attempts to explain all the problems that Chinese citizens suffer in order to travel abroad: http://www.why-so-hard-chinese-travel-abroad.com/

Much of it seems to be down to difficulty and cost of acquiring a passport and visas. Passport acquisition: Requires multiple visits to home province irrespective of where the person currently lives. Visa costs: Many countries make it expensive to acquire a visa for Chinese citizens. Visa documentation: Many countries require extensive documentation and justification for Chinese travellers

This site also provides information on Chinese exit controls and restrict exit in the following cases:

Article 12. Under any of the following circumstances, Chinese citizens are not allowed to exit China:

Hold no valid exit/entry documents, or refuse or evade border inspection;

Are sentenced to criminal punishments, the execution of which have not been completed, or are suspects or defendants in criminal cases;

Are involved in unsettled civil cases and not allowed to exit China upon decision of the people's courts;

Are subject to criminal punishment for impairing border administration, or are repatriated by other countries or regions due to illegal exit from China, illegal residence or illegal employment, and the No-Exit-from-China period has not expired;

May endanger national security or interests, and are not allowed to exit China upon decision by competent departments under the State Council;

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    Isn't it sad? Imagine off the same was true in the western world. Commented May 30, 2016 at 10:16
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    @JackMaddington: Most of these justifications are true in the Western world. Passports always remain the property of the issuing government. Persons with a criminal record can't get a passport in the first place, and those facing trial and considered a flight risk often have their passports seized or revoked. Whatever your opinion: in most of the world, international travel remains a privilege, even if the right to leave one's country is a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Commented May 30, 2016 at 11:45
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    This used to be true before 1990 for all East European countries (the countries with democratic or peoples in name - apparently a people's republic can't live without its people). It was very difficult to visit a comradely neighboring country and for most people outright impossible to get anywhere else. It¨s not that you would need visa, you simply couldn't get a apssport or acquire any foreign currency or would face 24+ hour search and detention at the border. To get the permit, a family would usually be required lo leave one of the children at home or something similar.
    – Pavel
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 13:55
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    I live in Europe and I have many many Chinese friends, colleagues and acquaintances and they have relatives visiting here all the time. I never heard of any of them who had his/her relative's passport application rejected, and I do ask them about that because I'm curious. It certainly still happens but for reasons that would prevent a Westerner from getting a passport from his/her Western country as well. Commented May 30, 2016 at 14:22
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    It may be a chicken-and-egg issue, but China's visa policy for foreigners seems just as unfriendly as they are to Chinese. I was a Hong Kong resident for 4 years and had in-laws with a house in China that I liked to visit, but I never managed to get better than a 2-entry visa. I had 14 of them in one passport, at a total cost of about US$1500, when I had to renew it. Canada, at the time, would issue a long-term multiple entry tourist visa to qualified Chinese citizens, very definitely including those resident in the US, so there was no apparent reciprocity.
    – user38879
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 15:35

Hopefully this wont provoke any politically charged responses, but I believe it (at least to some minor extent) has to do with keeping Chinese people in China.

It's very well known that the living conditions in some parts of China, and in some professions (think factory workers) are very bad compared to most of the western world. If you look at metropolitan areas in Canada and the U.S. (primarily, however this also applies to other countries) you'll see a very large population of naturalised 2nd, 3rd etc generation Chinese people. Due to the population of China, even a small percentage of emigrants translates to large numbers of people leaving the country.

China is a country where a lot of its strength comes from it's large population, and therefore large workforce (being a high export-manufacture nation). So for me it seems only natural that the government would want as little of its people to be leaving the country without a good reason, especially if they have no visa and seek only to seek asylum elsewhere.

The more blocks they place on traveling abroad, the less people will leave the country permanently in my opinion.

Of course this is just my take on it, and I may be completely and utterly wrong.

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    Whoops, sorry about the incorrect "it's", I think I just missed a few auto-corrects or something, not sure how they slipped through! Thanks Mark Mayo! Commented May 30, 2016 at 10:44
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    Not strictly disagree with this answer, but China has big problem with overpopulation (even birth of children is restricted).
    – rkosegi
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 18:41
  • @rkosegi I suppose that is true isn't it? Good point... Commented May 30, 2016 at 19:10
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    Sorry but in my opinion this answer is baseless, and the reality is more similar to the opposite. If there is one thing that China doesn't have is shortage of labour, and if there is one thing that China does have big time (and actively tries to reduce, see the one-child policy, only recently relaxed) is overpopulation. Claiming the opposite (that China wants to have as many people to stay in the country as possible) would at least require some good referenced sources. And without the foreign money that the vast number of Chinese emigrants send home they would have a bigger poverty problem. Commented May 31, 2016 at 8:39
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    @SantiBailors Very valid point :) as I said my answer was purely opinion and conjecture. Thanks for sharing your view! Commented May 31, 2016 at 8:51

There is definitely no exit visa required for Chinese citizens. The immigration control checks if a traveler has the visa for the destination solely.

If a Chinese citizen go to the visa-free countires, like Thailand, Indonesia, Jeju-island of S. Korea, Morocco, Maldives..., a passport is enough.

  • Ok, then why have I been told it is easier for a Chinese person to get a visa at an embassy for Japan, South Korea, and other countries where people "look Asian", than to other places such as the Americas and Europe? Why do such countries' consulates make it so hard for them, checking bank account requirements in the process? Lady time I checked was about 5 years ago. Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 11:12
  • What countries have been added to the list that Chinese people can visit without visas in recent years? Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 11:16
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    The first question ask about a situation which is not the fact. The second question has nothing to do with Chinese, that's a general policy when a consulate consider of issuing visa, especially to a citizen of less rich country. Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 11:17
  • So I guess it has to do with money? But then Chinese visa applicants need to answer a range of questions at adv interview to her the visa from the country they wish to visit. People entering China just have to send off a mere formality form to visit and approval is almost always guaranteed. (?) Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 11:18
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    @JackMaddington This should be marked as the correct answer Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 7:29

The existing answers treat China as if the situation there is very fundamentally different from other countries (like the US). However, residents from both countries have areas that they need a visa for, and areas that don't need a visa/permit at all.

Sure, the no-visa country list is shorter for China than the US, but the chinese list will likely keep growing and the point is that it is there.

Chinese visa requirements enter image description here

That still leaves the question why people need visas at all, but as that is already covered, I will just mention that it seems that migration control, and 'tourist tax' appear to be the main reasons for visas nowadays.

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    The question is a bit broad but I understood it to be about exit visas or permits and that's somewhat unusual in this day and age. The reason why foreign nationals need a visa to enter a third country is a bit different (and actually not addressed in details in other answers, at least not in mine).
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 8:50
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    Where can I find a no-visa country list for China (countries that a Chinese person can visit without an exit visa, without an entry visa, or both). Thanks. Commented May 31, 2016 at 8:53
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    @JackMaddington Maybe at an embassy or consulate of the country to be visited by the Chinese person, as there is no such thing as the need for any exit visa for Chinese citizens to exit China. Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 12:45
  • @Dennis, you mention migration control. Could it be that since China is such a largely populated country that many other countries are just scared that if the visas are to easy to get their countries will simply get flooded with Chinese people (so sort of like a xenophobia of some sort)? Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 11:16

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