This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in China set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry and transit
You will need a valid visa to enter China. The Chinese Visa Application Centres in London, Manchester and Edinburgh are operating but with limited opening hours. The Application Centre in Belfast remains closed.
The Chinese authorities have suspended all direct flights from the UK. This measure will be subject to review but no date has been announced. Restrictions on travel to China from other countries, and the necessary requirements, may be different. British nationals travelling to China from a third country should follow the directions on the website of the local Chinese Embassy or consulate for requirements from that country.
On 4 November the Chinese Embassy in the UK announced the temporary suspension of entry into China by non-Chinese nationals in the UK holding Chinese visas or residence permits. Entry by holders of diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas would not be affected. Foreign nationals visiting China for emergencies can still apply for visas at Chinese Embassies or Consulates and entry by non-Chinese nationals in the UK with visas issued after 3 November 2020 will not be affected.
If you’re issued a visa to travel from the UK to China in these circumstances you will need to submit a Health Declaration Form to your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the UK before you travel, who will need to certify your form and return it to you via email. The Chinese Embassy announcement of 4 November stated the Chinese Embassy and Consulates have suspended issuing Certified Health Declaration forms for non-Chinese nationals in the UK holding visas or residence permits. More details, including the process for submitting forms for those still eligible, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
In order to receive a Health Declaration Form from the Chinese Embassy you must provide evidence of negative nucleic acid and IgM antibody tests for COVID-19 taken no more than 48 hours before you travel.
Reports of both your nucleic acid (COVID-19) and IgM (antibody) tests must come from the same service provider. This does not mean the provider must carry out both tests, but that the provider must guarantee both test reports. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
On 15 March the Chinese Embassy in the UK announced a relaxation of certain requirements for visa applicants who can prove inoculation with a vaccine produced in China. Travellers who have not had a vaccine are still able to enter China under the existing, limited circumstances described above. Only vaccines approved by the independent MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority) are available in the UK via the NHS’ COVID-19 vaccination programme. No vaccine produced in China has yet been granted MHRA approval. (See ‘Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status’)
Further details on visa requirements can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
A limited number of international flights from other countries are flying into Beijing. Other international passenger flights to Beijing continue to be diverted to 16 designated airports in Chengdu, Changsha, Hefei, Lanzhou, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Hohhot, Jinan, Qingdao, Nanjing, Shenyang, Dalian, Zhengzhou, Xi’an and Wuhan. A small number of international flights are also operating direct between European cities and Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao.
Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status
China has not yet confirmed that it will accept the UK solutions for demonstrating your COVID vaccination status. You should follow guidance for alternative entry requirements. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination.
Health checks on arrival
All overseas passenger arrivals are subject to health checks on arrival (likely involving nucleic acid or swab tests). Those failing health checks may be sent to a designated hospital for treatment.
Health regulations surrounding passengers arriving from overseas are continuously changing. You should contact the Chinese Embassy before you travel if you have any questions regarding these entry requirements, quarantine rules or the requirements for individual cities.
Following health checks on arrival, you will then need to enter quarantine for at least 14 days. At some points of entry children 14 and over will be required to quarantine alone irrespective of whether they test positive or negative for COVID.
You will be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. If this happens to you, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care. For further information on healthcare in China, please see the Coronavirus section
Quarantine is usually spent at either a centralised government hotel (with costs covered by the traveller) or your home. Quarantine requirements can change at short notice and may differ from province to province.
Follow-up swab tests are likely to take place during your quarantine period. Family members of someone who tests positive, or those who have been in close contact, will need to go into a government quarantine hospital.
For all quarantine arrangements in China:
- unless directed by the authorities you’re not allowed to leave your designated quarantine location for 14 days. This means you’re also unable to leave China for the duration of the quarantine
- depending on the quarantine location, facilities may be basic: there may be no fridge, no air-conditioning, and limited or no internet/wifi
- during your stay you will be responsible for cleaning the room
- if meals are not available at the quarantine location, you will need to arrange food orders for delivery from outside
- larger sized families with two parents may be separated into 2 rooms.
- if you’re on prescription medication make sure you bring enough with you to last for at least 3-4 weeks together with medical documents certifying that you need to take this medication. See Health for further information
Failure to comply with the quarantine conditions or testing put in place, or any attempts to deliberately conceal health conditions can result in being sentenced to up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and foreign nationals.
Regular entry requirements
British nationals normally need a visa to enter mainland China, including Hainan Island, but not Hong Kong or Macao.
All visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 inclusive need to make their visa application in person at a Visa Application Centre. As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) has to be provided.
Biometric data may be checked/collected by the immigration authorities when entering China to register your entry to the country.
If you’re transiting China, visa waivers are available in certain places. Visitors transiting through Shanghai can apply online for a 144 hour visa exemption via the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection. In other visa waiver transit locations, applications must be made in person on arrival. More information is available on the Visa Application Service Centre website.
The British Embassy in Beijing has received reports of a recent increase in cases where entry to China under the visa waiver on arrival scheme has been refused, which may be linked to previous travel history. You should note that entry to China under a visa waiver is not guaranteed - Chinese border officials have the right to refuse entry without warning or explanation. You should contact the Chinese Embassy or the China Visa Application Service Centre before your proposed trip for further information. If you’re unsure about your eligibility for a visa waiver, you’re advised to apply for a visa before travelling.
If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China and wish to return to the mainland, you’ll need a visa that allows you to make a second entry into China.
It is your responsibility to check your visa details carefully. Do not overstay your visa or work illegally. The authorities conduct regular checks and you may be fined, detained or deported (or all three).
If you remain in China longer than 6 months, you may need to get a Residence Permit.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months when you enter China.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from China. You may need to show a police report indicating how you lost your full passport.
If your ETD has been issued in China, you will need an exit visa from the Public Security Bureau before you can leave. This process can take up to 7 working days.
Registering with the Chinese authorities
You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Chinese authorities enforce this requirement with regular spot-checks of foreigners’ documentation. If you’re staying in a hotel, they will do this for you as part of the check-in process.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Working in China
You can only work in China if you have a Z visa - tourist and business visit visas do not allow you to do so. You must also hold a valid work permit. The local police regularly carry out checks on companies/schools. Violation of Chinese immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, deportation, a travel ban preventing you from leaving China, and an exclusion order, which prevents you from returning.
Before you leave the UK you should contact the Chinese Embassy to check visa requirements. When submitting your visa application, and when you receive your work permit, check that the details are correct, including the location you’ll be working in. If they’re not, you can be detained.
If you intend to change employer once you’re in China, you should check with the Chinese authorities whether a new visa and work permit is needed before doing so.
Teaching in China
Teaching in China can be a rewarding experience, but before you travel it’s important that you research thoroughly the school or university that is hiring you and are confident that they are following the law. There have been many incidents of teachers being detained and/or deported for working on the wrong visas. It is your responsibility to check you’re working on the correct visa.