The old commercial visa (F visa), now called M visa
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The business visa (or M visa) is issued to those coming to China for commercial activity. In the course of the article you’ll find answers to the following questions:
- What is required to obtain an M visa?
- How long is the M visa good for, and how many entries can I get?
- Where can I apply for an M visa?
- Can I renew my M visa in China?
- How much does an M visa cost?
- How can I read an M visa?
- How can one get an M visa on arrival at the Shanghai Airport?
- How can one get a 5 day visa on arrival at the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen?
- Can I work in China with an M visa?
If you’re interested in finding out more about tourist, student or work visas, click here to read our guide to Chinese visas. If instead you’re interested in a visa to visit relatives (your husband, son, etc) then click here. If you’re interested in obtaining a visa for Taiwan, click here.
What is required to obtain an M visa?
To obtain an M visa you will need:
- An original passport valid for at least six months
- Two photos 4.5cm*3.5cm with a blue background
- An invitation letter from a trade fair such as Canton Fair or from a Chinese firm (in the event that you get your visa through a Chinese agency, it’s possible that they will be the ones to procure the letter for you)
- A copy of the Chinese firm’s business license
- A business card with your company’s name and contact information (telephone, email, etc)
The invitation letter should contain your information (name, date of birth, etc), details about your trip (purpose of your visit, dates of arrival and departure, where you will be visiting, etc) and information about the firm that granted you the invitation letter.
If you intend to apply for – in Hong Kong, – a visa that will permit you to stay in China for six months or more, you will also have to meet the following criteria:
- Your passport must contain at least two Chinese visas issued outside of Chinese territory (those visas have a green background instead of blue or gray)
- Among your last three Chinese visas, one of them must have been issued in your country
Where can I apply for an M visa?
Generally speaking, you should apply at the CVASC or at the Chinese Consulate in your own country (here you’ll find a complete list), especially when it comes down to work and student visas.
If for some reason you don’t want to, or you can’t show up personally, you can use an agency to get your Chinese VISA. This will have a supplementary cost, but it may still be cheaper than the cost of the trip to the nearest CVASC or Chinese Consulate).
In this case you’ll have to send your passport (and other necessary documents) to the agency and they will handle everything. To apply for a visa service through an agency you can use the form above on the right.
The other option, which is frequently used by those who are already in Asia, is to apply for the visa in Hong Kong. Click here to read our guide about to how to apply for a Chinese visa in Hong Kong.
How long is an M visa good for, and how many entries can I get?
The M visa has a duration of a year maximum and can be extended another 180 days in China. Moreover, the M visa allows for 1, 2 or multiple entries. In the latter scenario, you can enter and exit China as much as you please for the length of your visa. Last we heard, at the moment the M visa with a validity of more than 90 days can only be applied for in Hong Kong (and there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get it as visas are decided upon on a case by case basis).
American citizens can also apply for a 10 years multi entry M visa (maximum 60 day for each stay).
Can I renew my M visa in China?
Yes, you can renew your M visa up to a maximum of 180 days without leaving China. In this case you should turn to an agency such as Meshing Consultancy Services Co., Ltd., located in Shanghai, on Wuding Road 555, room 318.
How much does an M visa cost?
The price may vary from 30 to almost 200 USD according to your nationality, the type of visa and the number of entries.
For Europeans it’s usually cheaper, while Americans are often required to pay more than 100 USD.
How do I read an M visa?
- Category: M
- Entries: 1, 2 or M ( “M” multiple entries)
- Enter Before: XX-XX-XXXX (the visa’s expiration date)
- Duration of each stay: XX days after entry
- Issue date: XX-XX-XXXX (date the visa was issued)
How can one get an M visa on arrival at Shanghai Airport?
This type of visa, which is good for 30 days, is for those who are forced to enter China due to an emergency situation but, for some reason, do not possess a visa. Here are the most common “emergency situations”: needing to sign a business contract, needing to carry out an inspection regarding merchandise acquired from China, needing to repair a machine or participate in a trade fair.
Even in this case you should have an invitation letter that serves to confirm the emergency situation that justifies your entry into China. In order to issue an invitation letter with the purpose of obtaining an M visa on arrival, the company doing the inviting must have at least a million Yuan in capital and be registered in one of the following provinces: Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui or Guangdong.
In addition, you can only obtain this type of visa if you land at either Shanghai Pudong or Shanghai Hongqiao airport. To conclude, if you hold a French or American passport you cannot apply for this type of visa.
How can one get a 5 day visa on arrival at the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen?
If you land in Hong Kong and have a European, Australian, Canadian or New Zealand passport, you can immediately head to the Chinese border and apply for a 5 day visa which will be issued right then and there (to apply all you’ll need is your passport and 150 Hong Kong Dollars). This visa is only valid for the special economic zone of Shenzhen, namely the cities of Shenzhen, Shekou and the factories dispersed throughout the surrounding countryside.
In actuality the visa is called “Tourist visa to Shenzhen Special Economic Zone” so, technically, it’s a tourist visa. However it is most convenient for those who come to Shenzhen, the world capital of electronics, for business purposes.
If instead you’re in Macau you can apply for a similar visa for the Zhuhai area (in this case for a length of three days).
Can I work in China with an M visa?
If you are paid by a foreign company and will be working in China for less than three months, then an M visa will be sufficient.
But if you’re paid by a Chinese company or you’re paid by a foreign firm but will be working in China for over three months, then you will need a work visa (called a Z visa).
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[Photo Credits (Creative Commons License): www.flickr.com/photos/triciawang/]