From September 1st 2013, relatives of foreign residents in China have more opportunities to visit their loved ones under new regulations. The S visa is a new visa type issued to family members of foreign professionals and students in China. Spouses, children, brothers, sisters, parents and parents-in-law of foreigners residing in China all qualify for this S visa, which is much more generous than the international standard limited to only spouses and children. The policy is sure to benefit many foreigners, making their lives much easier and more comfortable here in China. Also, the new move can help China attract and retain international expertise, boost tourism and attract more overseas talent.
The S visa has two categories S1 and S2. S1 is issued to "Immediate family members" for purposes of entry and long-term family visits to foreigners residing in China for work or study, and to those who intend to go to China for other private matters. Here "immediate family members" refers to spouses, parents, parents-in-law and children under the age of 18. S2 is issued to "Family members" of work Z and student X visa holders, including spouses, parents, children, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law, and to those who intend to go to China for other private matters. The other difference between S1 and S2 is that S1 allows a stay of more than six months, while S2 is issued for shorter visits. S1 holders must apply for a Temporary Residence Permit within 30 days of entry. The residence permit can be granted with a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of five years. S2 holders must stay in China during the period on the visa.
1. Applicant's passport with blank pages and at least six months validity left.
2. One truthfully completed Application Form with a recent color photo.
3. An invitation letter issued by the foreigner/relative who works or studies in China, which contains:
a. Information on the applicant (full name, gender, date of birth, etc.)
b. Information on the visit (purpose of visit, arrival and departure dates, place of intended residence, relations between the applicant and the inviting individual, financial source of living expenditure, etc.)
c. Information on the inviting individual (name, contact number, address, signature, etc.)
4. A photocopy of the inviting individual's passport and residence permit.
5. Original and a photocopy of certification such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, certification of kinship issued by the Public Security Bureau (or notarized certification of kinship) showing their immediate family relationship.
For private affairs, a document explaining personal details such as marriage, heritage, adoption, medical treatments, etc.
How to Apply
Applicants must submit applications to Chinese embassies or consulates by themselves or someone else or through a trusted travel/visa agency. A personal appearance is necessary only when consular officials require an interview. Mail and mail-back services are not available at most embassies and consulates. However, for applications through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC) wherever available (such as Canada, UK, Australia, France, Germany, India, Singapore), applying by post is an option and applicants can also complete the application form online. An online appointment is required for all applications in person.
Regular processing currently takes four working days at Chinese embassies/consulates/ CVASC. However, there may be some changes under the new regulations. According to an announcement from the Chinese embassy in India in mid July, the normal processing may take one to two weeks and they advise the applicant to plan ahead. Excuses such as air ticket booked and confirmed will not be accepted. So please refer to the websites of the relevant consular missions before application.
The fees including application fee and service fee remain unchanged. It mainly differs for nationalities, number of entries and processing time requested.