Important COVID-19 travel guidance
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.
This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to 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
China has suspended entry to foreign nationals with visas issued before 27 March. The Chinese authorities have told the British Embassy in Beijing that this includes transit passengers. The only exemptions will be diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas. Individuals coming to China for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities, or for emergency humanitarian needs, may apply for new visas at Chinese embassies or consulates.
All international passenger flights to Beijing will 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.
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.
All overseas passenger arrivals are subject to health checks (likely involving nucleic acid or swab tests), including during transit, followed by a centralised quarantine period of at least 14 days – costs for which to be covered by the passenger. During this period follow-up swab tests are likely to take place. Those failing health checks may be sent to a designated hospital for treatment. Quarantine requirements can change at short notice and may differ from province to province.
Quarantine is usually spent at either a centralised government hotel or your home. Family members of someone who tests positive, or those who have been in close contact, will be required to go into a government quarantine hospital.
For all quarantine arrangements in China:
- Unless directed by the authorities you are not allowed to leave your designated quarantine location for 14 days. This means you are 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. Don’t 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 be required 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 don’t 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 required 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.