The tourist (L) and transit (G) visas are the only ones that you can apply for without assistance from a business, government or academic institution.
Most visitors to China will only require a tourist visa which will allow them to travel freely in most parts of China as tourists or to visit or accompany Chinese family members. If your situation is not described by one of the other visa types, then this should be the visa you need. If you marry a Chinese person and want to live in China, unless you are eligible for another type, you are normally granted a tourist visa with a longer validity.
If you are travelling in an organised tour group you might not have an individual visa in your passport. Instead, the tour leader will have a general one for the whole group. In such situations you will supply your details to the organiser before you travel and then you have no further concerns. If you are travelling to Hainan province in an organised group you might also find that no visa is required.
1. Applicant' passport with at least 6 months remaining validity and available blank pages;
2. One truly completed Visa Application Form. If someone else travelling with you shares the same passport, or if you are applying for a visa in a country or territory other than the country of your current nationality, you should fill out the Supplementary Visa Application Form. Please fill in every column of the application form, using "N/A" if not applicable. If the application form is not filled out truly, completely and legibly, this can cause a delay in processing or refusal of the requested visa.
3. A recent passport-size color photo with white background stuck on the application form
For tourism, applicants also need provide the below required documents.
4. Under some situations, the original and copy of Chinese Hotel Booking and Return Air Ticket are required.
Tibet Travel Permit (click to enlarge)
For family visit, applicants should provide the following documents besides the first three items listed above:
6. Proof of Relationship, such as Marriage License, however, the applicants who were born in China (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) as shown on the passport are exempt from this proof.
How to Apply
You can come to the Chinese Embassies, Consulates and other Chinese diplomatic missions to submit application in person; if you can't come personally, you can entrust someone else, a travel agency or a visa agency to act on your behalf. Applications by mailing are not acceptable and will be refused at most of Chinese embassies or consulates. No appointment is required.
It regularly takes 4 working days for processing. For express service, additional fees of US$ 20 will be charged per visa for second or third working day releasing. For rush service, additional fees of US$30 per visa will be charged for the same working day releasing.
The fees vary enormously depending on your nationality and number of entries. However, according to the Visa Fee Abolition Agreement, the nationals of following seven countries are free of the fees, but they need pay for the express service, rush service or mail service: Pakistan, Maldives, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Poland, Yugoslavia and Slovakia. Visa application by mailing is accepted at some Chinese embassies or consulates, such as Chinese Embassy in Canberra, Australia.
Chinese Visa Application Requirements
Application Requirements at Embassy/Consulates of PRC in USA
Application Requirements at Embassy/Consulates of PRC in UK
Application Requirements at Embassy/Consulates of PRC in Canada
Application Requirements at Embassy/Consulates of PRC in Australia