Mar 11, 2015 By Ray Kenderdine ,

Ah, the Chinese visa system. We all know it, have to deal with it and, for everyone I know including myself, find it to be tedious. But then, most everyone deals with the visa system with extensive help from your employer, which for most people reading this article, that is the school you teach for. Schools vary from place to place, but most of the time, they have greased the system to allow a relatively smooth ride.

But that’s not the case when you go through the process of a spousal visa, also known as the “Q” visa.

Spousal visas are generally multiple entry, so traveling in and out is never an issue. Just make sure to tell the visa officers that you require a multiple-entry visa the first time you apply.

Chinese spousal visa
Photo: Kumon

Applying for the spousal visa

The process really differs from province to province. When I got married, I was teaching and living in Inner Mongolia, which is my wife’s home province. But for several years she worked for Haier and thus, transferred her hukou to Shandong Province.

This meant that we both had to travel to Shandong’s capital of Qingdao to get married. In Qingdao the process was nothing short of easy. I arrived by plane, after getting my certification from the US embassy in Beijing showing I wasn’t married in America, met my soon to be wife at the hotel, then went to the marriage office. The next morning it was off to the PSB.

The transference from a Z visa to a Q visa was simple enough. All I was required to do was to sign a piece of paper stating that I understood that I was not allowed to work for a company on a Q visa and that was that. No medical, no checkups form the local authorities, no need to produce a document showing residence.

The officer told me I could have a one-year visa. After that expired I could apply for a two-year and then a five-year. Not having to go to the PSB every year sounded great. My wife told her we were living in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia and the officer said each province was different but it shouldn’t be a problem. She was partially right.

Renewing the spousal visa

When a year was nearly up we went to the PSB in Hohhot. There we were told that if I didn’t submit a medical check I could only have a six-month residence permit (at nearly the same cost as a yearly permit). For the full year, I had to have the health check.

Additionally, things were not so straightforward on the length of permit options in Inner Mongolia as they apparently were in Shandong. We were told that residency permits longer than a year were available, but we had to talk to the officers on the second floor about that, but the officer advised against it.

He said we had to show a compelling reason why I needed a permit longer than one year to the officers on the second floor. He said they don’t really approve them that much and since my permit was to expire in a week, it wasn’t a good idea, as they might take longer than that to decide.


The long and short of life on a spousal visa is this: Know that every province or autonomous region is different, especially the autonomous regions. The rules change regularly and vary greatly from place to place. If you are thinking about it, go to the PSB and ask. They’ll tell you all you need to do.

For me, being in the regional capital, there’s a health check (once a year is enough for this process), a trip to the local police station near my apartment to check in with the police so they can verify my residence, then the main PSB.

One thing is for sure; do not flirt with the idea of working on the Q visa. Every year I listen to the local officers warning me that if I work, I will face a stiff fine, deportation and possible detainment. I have known people that break the visa laws and the ones who are caught do not have pleasant stories to relate about the experience.

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Keywords: applying for spousal visa China Chinese spousal visa

27 Comments Add your comment



Why would you want to change to a Q visa when you have a Z visa and working?

Mar 11, 2015 02:43 Report Abuse



I agree, you were still working? What were you thinking?

Mar 11, 2015 07:13 Report Abuse



He could still work on any visa, as long as it wasn't for a company that has operations in China. If he were freelancing for an American firm or writing, or doing one of the million online jobs he would be withen the law.

Mar 11, 2015 19:45 Report Abuse



thank you for the information, its good to know

Mar 11, 2015 03:40 Report Abuse



If you can't work on a Q visa, how do you support a family? Doesn't make sense: wouldn't the government want to discourage freeloading?

Mar 11, 2015 08:51 Report Abuse



I agree.....I think that someday this will change for English teachers, and that you will be able to work on a spousal visa....GUEST is doesnt make sense :-(

Mar 11, 2015 09:29 Report Abuse



I don't want to say it like I am on the side of the local government, because I am not. Many of you are thinking in terms of your own countries ways. China is a non immigrant country due to political and population reasons. As much as I'd like to see the Spousal Visa get better rewards, or the green card easier to be had, the fact is they simply do not want foreigners increasing the population, taking the jobs of the newly graduated, and especially taking one of the fewer women that local boys are fighting for when it is 100 girls per every 125 boys, or more. The only way I see this law changing, and it has been like this for a decade or more from what I know, is either China decided that foreign spouses can help with the tax issue for their pending retirement fund woes, due to the 1 child per family policy (possibly), or if China somehow has a change of heart and wants the world to see they are modern (not so likely).

Mar 11, 2015 11:00 Report Abuse



Abso-bloody-lutely! Don't forget our funny non-zhongguo ideas that are unwanted, unneeded and unappreciated. Why on earth would we be encouraged to stay any longer than absolutely necessary.

Mar 12, 2015 22:51 Report Abuse



Qingdao isn't the provincial capital of Shandong. That's Jinan. Are you claiming they changed it on the spot? They have to send out your passport to Jinan, as I just got mine back this week, 4-weeks later. Further, I agree with others that you shouldn't have changed until the 'z' expired, at least.

Mar 11, 2015 12:29 Report Abuse



i got my 2 year Q visa with no trouble here in Shenzhen.The police officer did not ask us any questions either.I think I got a 2 year visa because we have a baby.

Mar 11, 2015 13:51 Report Abuse



It was actually a very poor article. It could have linked to the regulations, etc. it also didn't explain why he'd changed from a working Z visa to a Q visa. You'll find better explanations of getting a Q visa in the answers section on this website.

Mar 12, 2015 22:37 Report Abuse



My wife is from Henan and we live in Beijing for the past 4 years and always get 1 year visa no stress, we have 2 kids but i don't know if the PBS knows that though.

Mar 11, 2015 14:12 Report Abuse



I got a 2 year Q2 visa in Hong Kong last week, I picked it up next day and just supplied a copy of my wife's ID card and my marriage book. It was more expensive than it would have been from the PSB (HK$3420 for UK), but I didn't have to go through the hassle of getting a health check, the hassle of dealing with the rude morons who populate the office of the PSB and I only had to fill out one form. I recommend it highly.

Mar 11, 2015 14:51 Report Abuse



It doesn`t make sense that you have a Chinese wife and you don't have right to work in china.Is it a joke?

Mar 11, 2015 15:21 Report Abuse



Right, why on earth would I get a Q visa if I can't work on it? ...

Mar 12, 2015 10:32 Report Abuse



You can also apply for a Q2 visa outside of China, which is especially useful if you decide to have a baby in another country. The application requirements are the same as an L visa, plus marriage certificate. When I got mine, I was able to get 180 days multiple entry for 300 euros (2,400rmb at 1:8), which will last me about a year and a half if used immediately. For a child, you can apply for shenfenzhen without making him/her a Chinese national. My son has dual citizenship (not Chinese), but can still get his "social security card" in China.

Mar 12, 2015 12:42 Report Abuse



The policy will change and someday we married folks will be able to work on a Q visa or easier paths to a green card, just will have to pay higher taxes or pay something. The day will come.

Mar 12, 2015 19:01 Report Abuse



The day may come, but not while Uncle Xi and friends are running the show. The anti-west rhetoric gives legitamacy, "Remember who saved you from the century of shame?" South Korea, Japan, Taiwan...marriage gives the right to work. Why? Because they are mature societies that are not run by gangsters.

Mar 12, 2015 23:10 Report Abuse



Okay then it's run my reasonable and rational gangsters

Mar 13, 2015 17:01 Report Abuse



Sorry but I think #7 The-Final-Say has it right on the money. The spouse visa is not for Laowai males, its not designed for us and I can't see it changing quickly in the future. Its for females from neighbouring places to marry Chinese men. So no need to work on it as your job is to be a mother and housewife and possibly help out the MIL in the family business/ farm. In an ideal world the visa would come with the right to work, but who said this is an ideal world. Besides China's spouse policy is a damn sight better than the UKs. Now that really is unfair and draconian...

Mar 12, 2015 22:42 Report Abuse



It is bloody stupid that the Q visa doesn't allow the holder to work as a foreign expert teacher, since teaching English as a Native speaker isn't taking any Chinese person's job away! In Zhejiang, it's not a problem to get a Q visa for 2 years if one has kids. I'd like to know more about how to get the green card, if that allows one to work...

Mar 13, 2015 18:08 Report Abuse



News for China-haters and slanderers: Foreign Spouses of local citizens do not have the automatic right to work in many places - including the U.S.! They do not get a green card or right to work automatically; they need to apply; it can take months or a year; and they can be turned down.

Mar 14, 2015 17:30 Report Abuse



Yeah Yeah.That is why usa is full of chinese immigrants right? Are you joking?All foreign countries should ban chinese from their system if chinese goverments does not change this stupid visa rule

Mar 16, 2015 09:33 Report Abuse



Better a china - sober-mind person than an apologist like you. Western countries and especially the english speaking places are full of them. And they are NOT the brightest ones by any means. Talking from a lengthy experience , teaching them in England.

Mar 16, 2015 10:38 Report Abuse



..umm, sorry Guest2239322, but just can't be done, because of grown-ups stuff like national sovereignty, the fact that states have never been in a position nor have sought large scale changes in another state's immigration policy, the fact that immigration decisions are an exercise of a prerogative power of government, the fact that immigration flows are an economic consideration (which is why you see highly productive Chinese being welcomed pretty well everywhere), and, umm, yeah, things like that maybe. As a matter of international law, all persons are entitled to citizenship, but not entitled to a choice over citizenship, nor residence beyond the territorial realm of the state of origin. Freedom of movement is a right, but not an absolute, non derogable right. Immigration law is a fact of life for any traveller or intending migrant. Failing to understand, nor adequately plan for immigration issues in one's intended destination is likely to be only part of a complex tangle of poor decision making.

Mar 18, 2015 17:56 Report Abuse