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For people who would normally require to obtain a visa in advance there are certain emergency situations which will permit them to get it on arrival.  These will always require an invitation from an accredited Chinese organisation which explains the emergency, (mostly related to business purposes which from the Chinese perspective it is important that you are admitted without delay) or you must yourself be in a real emergency situation such as a passenger in a plane or ship in mechanical difficulty.

Aliens who hold ordinary passports issued by countries which have diplomatic relations or official trade links with PRC as well as letter(s) or telegram(s) from authorized units in PRC, may, under any of the following circumstances where they must necessarily rush to China but have no time for application, may apply at entry ports as authorized by the Ministry of Public Security. The Rules on Visa Issued at Entry Ports are not applicable to the nationals of United States and France.

1. They are invited at the last moment by a Chinese host to come for a trade fair.
2. They are invited to come to submit a tender or to sign a formal economic or trade contract.
3. They come to China by appointment to supervise the inspection of import and export commodities or to participate in a check-and-accept operation in accordance with contracts.
4. They are invited to participate in the installation of equipment or in the emergency repair of engineering projects.
5. They come to China at the request of the Chinese side to solve a problem of claims.
6. They are invited to provide technical advisory services.
7. They come to due to a last-minute change in the composition of a visiting group and with consent of the Chinese side after the visas are granted.
8. They visit to see patients in critical conditions, or to undertake funeral matters.
9. Owing to force majeure, transit G holders cannot leave the country within twenty-four hours by taking the original place or by taking other means of transport.
10. Other invited guests who really have no time for application to the aforesaid Chinese resident agencies abroad, and who hold letter(s) or telegram(s) from competent authorities who give the consent for the invited guests to apply for the visa at the designated entry ports.

The offices at entry ports shall not accept and handle applications filled out by people who do not come under the aforesaid circumstances.

Some accredited International Travel Agencies incorporated under Chinese laws may apply for group-tour visa at entry ports with invitation letter issued by provincial office of foreign affairs.

Visa-issuing departments at port of entry, as authorized by the Ministry of Public Security, are stationed at the following ports: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Dalian, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Xi'an, Guilin, Hangzhou, Kunming, Guangzhou (Baiyun Airport), Shenzhen (Luohu, Shekou, Huanggang), Zhuhai (Gongbei), Haikou, Sanya, Jinan, Qingdao, Yantai, Weihai, Chengdu, Nanjing, Changchun, Huichun, Hekou, Mohe.

There is also provision for a short stay VOA for some nationalities for persons who only want to visit a Special Economic Zone such as Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Xiamen or Shantou.  Most travellers would find this not an option if they intend flying there.  See Airline Regulations

Shenzhen
The single entry five-day VOA is available at Luohu (Lo Wu) Port, Huanggang Port, Shekou Port and Fuyong Port if you visit Shenzhen for 5 days at most. There is no office at Futian Port although it is a few hundred meters apart from Huanggang Port. They are different land crossings which connect to different points in Lok Ma Chau in Hong Kong. Futian Port connects to Lok Ma Chau MTR Station while Huanggang Port connects to 24-hour Lok Ma Chau Control Point. 

Office Hours of Shenzhen VOA Application at the Following Ports:
Luohu Port: 09:00 - 22:30
Huanggang Port: 09:00 - 13:00, 14:30 - 17:00
Shekou Port: 08:45 - 12:30, 14:30 -17:30
Fuyong Port: 08:30 - 17:30

Application Requirements
1. your valid passport;
2. complete the application form when you are at the port;
3. the officer will take a photo of you after you hand over your passport and application form;
4. pay for the VOA (in Chinese RMB), and there is a window for currency exchange.

Passport holders of most countries can easily get a VOA in Shenzhen, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, Ireland and Spain. Some may apply for it showing passports with proof that they have been issued Chinese visa before by embassies and consulates, such as Indonesians and Philippines. Currently, the fee for most nationals is 168 RMB, but the fee for US nationals is much higher at a rate of 1224 RMB. The different fees are set on a reciprocal basis. Only RMB is accepted for payment. When you get to the office at the border, just complete the application form, take a photo and pay the fee, so you don’t need to worry about the application materials. What you need is just a valid passport. The visa will be issued within a few minutes. You may need to wait longer if the room is busy.

Zhuhai
Three-day VOA are provided at Gongbei Port if you only visit Zhuhai. Upon arriving at the Gongbei immigration building, you can find the office by passing all the duty free shops; it is behind a green door on the right hand side of the immigration building. You shall fill in an application form, pay the fee and have your photo taken on spot. The processing takes about 10 minutes. It costs 168 RMB for applicants of most countries, but UK nationals have to pay 469 RMB. Hong Kong dollars are not accepted. Only RMB is accepted for payment. Currency can be changed at the China Tourist Services Office back downstairs in the immigration hall. Once the visa has been issued, proceed to the immigration hall to complete the immigration process.   

Hainan
Compare to Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Xiamen and Shantou, Hainan enjoys more privileges to issue VOA besides Hainan Visa Exemption. Haikou and Sanya can issue 30 days VOA to all tour groups to Hainan and aliens who go to Hainan for sightseeing, family visit or business. If aliens ask for more than 30 days stay duration for family visit, business, study or work, 3 months Chinese VOA can be issued. They can use it to visit other cities within Mainland China and exit from all ports open to foreigners. In addition, the VOA is also available for travelers on international cruise ships who disembark in Haikou or Sanya. The international ships are from Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Portugal.