Documents Needed to Travel to China

Chinese Travel Documents

There are only a few documents needed to travel to China, but taking a few additional documents might be invaluable if you have an emergency. To enjoy your China vacation, or make sure you have everything in place for a successful business trip, make sure you have necessary documents and preparations prior to traveling.

Documents Needed to Travel to China

To travel to China all you need is a valid passport and, potentially, a Chinese visa:

  • The passport proves your citizenship
  • The Chinese visa proves that the Chinese authorities have given you permission to enter and travel through China.

The regulations about travel documents can change at any time, so be sure to check the Chinese embassy website for the most current information.


A passport is issued by the country in which the traveler has citizenship. In the United States, a passport is issued for ten years. The passport can be renewed. Visitors to mainland China will be asked to show a passport that is valid for at least six months. So, if your passport expires soon, you might want to go ahead and get it renewed.

Do You Need a Chinese Visa?

A visa is an endorsement stamp that is placed on your passport to show that you are pre-approved by the government to enter their country. China issues several types of visas, each designed for a specific type of traveler or travel purpose.

Chinese Visa Exemptions

While most visitors to China will need a visa, there are travel destinations and situations for which a Chinese visa is not required. These include US citizens who are going to Hong Kong for less than ninety days and airline passengers and crew who are at a Chinese airport for less than 24 hours. Other exemptions include those travelers who reside in Shanghai for 48 hours or less, or who are traveling through Shanghai Pudong or Hongqiao airport who are citizens of:

  • United States and Canada
  • South Korea
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria
  • Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece

Obtaining Documents

You will need to complete a few forms to apply for your passport and visa. Be sure to allow enough time for the applications to be processed. Don't wait until the last minute. And remember that it usually takes longer to get your application approved in the months right before heavy travel times.

United States Passport

Citizens can apply for a passport by completing a passport application form that is available at post offices and most libraries. Send your completed form and a check to the address on the application form. It might take up to six weeks to receive your passport, so be sure to allow enough time.

Acquiring a Chinese Visa

Visa applications are available from Chinese embassies and Consulate-Generals in Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

You will need to submit a completed application form, your valid [Get a New US Passport|passport] and two copies of a recent a 2-inch, full-face, bareheaded black and white or color photo. It usually only takes five to seven business days to receive your passport with the Chinese visa stamp.

If you don't live close to an embassy or Consulate-General, you can have your travel agency or a visa agency submit your application, passport and photos for you. If you are planning to be part of a China travel tour company, your touring company may handle the visa application process for you.

Other Documents For Travel

The passport and Chinese visa are necessary to enter the country. Several other documents can also be useful, even though they are not required.

International Driver's License

If you only going to be in a country for a few months, you may be able to get a driver's license issues by the local government. The local American embassy will be able to give you the details. To obtain a local driver's license you should be prepared to show a:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid driver's license
  • Valid Chinese visa

You can usually use your United States driver's license to rent a car. An international driving permit (IDP) may speed up the rental process, but it is not required. You can obtain more information about IDPs online and apply for an IDP online.

International Health Certificate

There are no special health or vaccination requirements for entry into or travel within China. To make your trip as worry-free as possible, you should consider doing the following:

  • Be up-to-date on your vaccinations (like a rabies shot) before you leave on your trip.
  • Get a yellow fever vaccination if you will be entering China after having traveled to a country that has yellow fever.
  • Ask your health care provider for an international health certificate after you have received your vaccinations. This will be helpful to show at Chinese customs to prove that you have received the necessary vaccinations.
  • Carry a complete medical record with you including your blood type, allergies, medications, vaccination record and contact information for your doctor and your insurance company.

Safeguarding Your Travel Documents

If you lose your passport, visa, driver's license, airline tickets, ATM card, traveler's checks or medical record, your trip can be severely interrupted and it could become very difficult for you to continue your trip. To protect yourself, consider doing the following:

  • Make three copies of your documents. Keep one set with you, one set in your luggage and give one set to a friend or family member that you can contact quickly.
  • Email yourself a set of your documents that you can retrieve online if you ever need the documents.

Other Documents Required

The requirements for documents needed to travel to China can change quickly. Be sure to check the Chinese embassy website as well the United States State Department website for the most current information on documents needed to travel to China.

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