Enrolling and getting your Visa to study in China.

So, you want to go to a Chinese University. Where do you start? Well, there are many options, depending on your circumstances. There are scholarship programs, you could go as part of your studies at the Confucius institute in your home country, you may have even found out about CUCAS via a Google search.

Personally, I’d recommend enrolling directly via the University. Shop around, browse the forums , ask questions. To be honest, there isn’t always a great deal of information out there. I already lived in the city I chose to study in, so it was a much easier decision.

In this post, I’m going to provide something of a guide as to how to enroll, register, and complete the visa process. This can all seem a bit daunting upon arriving in China, but in fact it’s quite straightforward. Hopefully this guide will set your mind at ease!

Obviously I can’t speak for every university in China, but I can write from the perspective of newly enrolled student at Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou.

Enrolling at SYSU.

1. Get your X1 Visa

The first thing you need to do is apply for an X1 visa at your local Chinese embassy/visa center.

You can only do this once you’ve been accepted by the University by means of an official entrance letter (pictured) I went to the one in Edinburgh. You should book an appointment online first, as they can get busy in the months leading up to September. You need to fill out a JW202 form. Once this is done, it usually takes about three or four working days to get your passport back. The X1 visa grants you single entry into China, and it cost around £150. This visa allows you to enter China, and is just the first step in getting your student visa!

What to bring:

  • Entrance letter from your university.
  • JW202 form
  • Application for visa form. You can print this ahead of time by downloading it from the China visa website. I forgot this, and was charged £1 to print it out, so not the end of the world.

Note: BRING YOUR JW202 FORM and ADMISSION LETTER to China! You will need these!

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2. Go to the police station.

Once in China, your X1 visa is only valid for 30 days. You have to get cracking on getting all of the required documents in place within this time frame! Your first port of call is your local police station. This should be the one nearest to where you live. If you check at the entrance to your apartment building, there should be a sign showing who your local police officers are, and the address of the police station.

You are required to register within 24 hours of arrival in China, or you could get fined. What to bring to the police station, I hear you ask?

a. Your passport

b. A copy of your rent apartment, signed by you and your landlord.

c. Photocopies of your passport and the page showing the entry stamp.

d. Photocopy of your landlords ID (身份证)ideally signed by the landlord.

e. Two passport photos.

You will be given a ‘Temporary Residence Form’ by the police. Hang on to this, as you will need it later.

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3. Get a Medical check

The dreaded medical check. I hate these, as I’m the worst with needles. Aside from this, it’s not so bad. I’ll make a separate post about this process, as I found it a bit bizarre.

Book your medical online where possible. The one in Guangzhou is: www.gdwbzx.com and apply for an appointment there. Once in, you’ll be allocated a slot. Get there on time! Your university will tell you where to go, but the one in Guangzhou is located here:

207, Long Kou Road, West, Tianhe East District, Guangzhou.

Get on the metro, and head to Gangding, exit B. It’s a short walk from here, so grab a rental bike or a taxi if you’re in a hurry.

What to bring:

  • Your passport and a copy of the visa page as well as entry stamp.
  • A set of photos. These can just be any photo of you, no need for the official receipt from the photo shops.

Once the medical is finished, you’ll get the results in three working days. You’ll be given a receipt, with a time to come and pick up your results. You have to come back to the center to pick them up.

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DON’T OPEN THE ENVELOPE! This is for the visa embassy. It has to stay sealed to prove there was no tampering. You’ll get a copy for your own records, so no need to open this up.

4. Official visa photos.

These can be taken by pretty much any photo place. There’s loads around Chinese cities. Just tell them you need the official receipt for the visa. Pro tip: while you’re here, get a few copies of this certificate printed. Saves a trip in the future and I’m pretty sure they don’t expire. The receipt has a copy of the photos on, so you may as well get loads of those printed too.

Useful language tip:


wo xu yao qian zheng zhao pian, yao hui zhi

(Sorry,I haven’t figured out how to type in pinyin with tones, but there’s the sentence you need!)

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Your photo receipt. My photographer kindly Photoshopped a spot out, and smoothed my skin. Cheers.

5. Pre-Application for Residence Permit

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Certificate for Residence Permit / Visa Application issued by your university.

Yep, there’s a pre-application before your application. We’re getting there, folks! Okay, so you have your medical result, your temporary residence form, and your official visa photos. You may now go ahead and pre-apply for the application. Be sure to apply yourself to the next bit, as it will be conducive towards successfully applying for an application. If only there was an app for this…sorry, I’ll stop.

For the next step, you should head to your campus and apply for your visa appointment.

Here’s what to bring:

  • Passport
  • Copies of your passport’s info page, visa page, and the page with the latest entry stamp.
  • Admission notice from the university (original document) your visa application form (JW202) 
  • Visa photo and official receipt
  • Registration certificate of temporary residence for visitors (the one the police gave you!)

You will be given two things from the Admission Office:

  • Certificate for Residence Permit/Visa application SYSU
  • A system number for the appointment.
  1. Application for Residence Permit

Phew! You made it to the final stage. At my uni, because there are so many students, the police from the immigration department actually came to the university, saving us all a trip to see them. Usually you’d have to go to the immigration department building, which is in Haizhu area anyway, so not really an issue for SYSU students. You just need to bring every document you’ve needed so far, as well as the Certificate for Residence Permit/Visa Application SYSU you got from the admission office.

  1. Back to the police station 

It takes about 15 working days / 3 weeks to get a new Residence Permit from the immigration department. As soon as you get your passport back, you have to head back to your local police station and update the temporary residence form with your new visa/Residence Permit number. This is easy. Just bring your passport and the old temporary residence permit. They’ll type in your new number and print out the new form! Keep this somewhere safe as you will need it next time you apply.

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