Foreign students studying in China are required to hold an ordinary passport and a valid student visa. Visa applications can take up to 4 weeks and can only begin once you have received an offer from a Chinese university. This means you'll need to make sure you leave sufficient time to complete both your Masters application and your visa application before your course start date.
Applying for an X1 visa
You can normally begin your visa application at a Chinese embassy or consulate in your home country. To do so, you’ll need the following documents:
- Your passport. This should be valid for at least six more months and have a blank page for your visa stamp.
- A recent passport photograph.
- Proof of legal residence in your current country (if applying from a country you are not a national of).
- An original and a copy of the university admission letter issued for your Masters.
- A completed visa application form. This will be issued to you by your university along with your admission letter. The form will be labelled as JW201 (for students on scholarships) or JW202 (for students supporting their own studies). Your university will send you the correct version.
Other documents may be required, depending on your personal circumstances. The embassy at which you apply should be able to inform you of these.
Once you have arrived in China, you will need to acquire a Registration Form of Temporary Residence. Who you receive this from will depend on your accommodation arrangements.
If you are living in university halls, you should receive the form from your university. If you are renting privately, you should receive your Temporary Residence Form from the local authorities (your landlord may have to accompany you).
When you have your Registration Form of Temporary residence you can formally enrol with your university and receive a longer term Residence Permit.
Enrolling with your university
Registration processes differ slightly between institutions, but there are certain documents that you should normally have on hand. These include:
- Your passport (plus extra passport-sized photographs)
- An admission letter from your university
- A copy of your health insurance letter
- Confirmation of your health insurance
- A receipt for payment of tuition
- Your Registration Form of Temporary Residence (this will have been provided by your university accommodation or by local authorities, if renting privately)
If you have yet to pay for tuition fees or health insurance you can do so at your university.
Applying for a Residence Permit
The last thing to do before getting suck into your Masters is to apply for a longer term Residence Permit. Your university can help you with this: You won’t be left to do it by yourself.
If you did not have to undergo a physical examination in order to receive your visa, you may have to undertake one in China in order to receive your residence permit. Again, your university can help you with this.
The procedure for obtaining a residence permit may take up to six weeks. During this time your passport will be with the Public Security Bureau. As such, you cannot make plans to leave the country during this period.
Once you receive a residence permit, this will be pasted into your passport, effectively replacing your visa. This will allow you to exit and re-enter the country.
You must carry your passport (with residency permit) with you at all times, as passport checks are undertaken regularly.
Health insurance and medical requirements
As a Masters student you will normally be staying in China for over a year. As such, you will need to hold adequate health insurance, which covers the duration of your stay.
You will also need to undergo a physical examination, preferably before arrival.
Your examination should be performed in a public hospital one month before departure for China. If the examination is performed in a private hospital, you should receive a notarised certificate. A form (PDF) for this is available from CUCAS, the official application support service for international students in China.
In some circumstances, passing a physical examination may be a condition of your visa. If so, this will be made clear during your application.
International students in China are also required to purchase both medical insurance and personal accidental death and injury insurance. You can do this before or after arrival in China.
If you opt to purchase student health insurance in China, you can do so when registering with your university. One of the most popular policies comes from the Ping An Life Insurance Company, who offer an insurance scheme for foreigners in China with an insurance premium of 800 RMB (USD $110) per year. You may be asked to purchase cover for your full course duration in advance.
China is a big country and rural hospitals may not have the same facilities as urban centres. Make sure your insurance includes transport. Your insurance may also limit the range of hospitals you can be treated at.
Can I work while I study?
Yes – but permissions vary depending on where you study. This is because it is only recently that the Chinese government has allowed international students to undertake part-time work.
As a general rule, students can work on average 12 hours per week, and may possibly take up extra hours in the holidays. However, you must have permission from your academic institution. As such, it is best to contact your university regarding their policy on part-time work for international students.