Applying for a Chinese Q1 visa in April 2019

Q1 is the China Family Reunion Visa (家庭团聚签证) for relatives or spouses of Chinese nationals.

As I am married to a Chinese national, and have been resident in China for coming up to twenty years, I’ve applied for the ‘family visa’ quite a few times. The documentation you have to submit changes a little each time, and anecdotally it changes from city to city. But here’s what I needed in April 2019 when applying in Kunming. Note that my wife has a Kunming ‘household registration’ (hukou, 户口册):

  • A filled out application form (外国人签证证件申请表), they’ll give you one at the visa place. I’ve tried downloading them beforehand from various government websites, but it’s never the version they want – best just to fill it out when you get there.
  • Request for family visit form (探亲申请表), also available at the visa place. This is filled in by your spouse and replaces the invitation letter from previous years. This actually makes life easier, because it was never clear exactly what they wanted in the letter.
  • Your passport (护照) and photocopies of the bio page, current visa and last entry stamp.
  • Marriage Certificate (婚姻证) and photocopies of all pages except the cover.
  • Spouse’s ID card (身份证) and photocopies of both sides.
  • A Certificate of Health Examination (健康检查证明书), and photocopies of interior pages. Note this is only needed for a two year visa, not the one year one.
  • Police residency registration certificate, officially known as the ‘Registration Voucher of Residence for Visitors from Overseas’ (境外人员住宿登记凭证), see below.
  • Two passport-size photographs, which must be taken at their designated photographer, plus a Receipt of China Visa Photograph (外国人签证数字相片采集回执).
  • Visa fee of RMB 800, note you only pay when you pick it up. They do not accept WeChat payments in any government department I’ve been in, only cash and bank card.

From the day we handed over all the documentation to the day we could go back and pick up my passport and visa was five working days (which is impressively fast). Still, as there’s always complications (for example, this year the medical was a new requirement and we had a three day wait to pick up the certificate) best to apply a month in advance.

As we’d just moved into a new place in Kunming, we had to register with a new police station (派出所) to get the police residency registration certificate, which I hadn’t done in years. They required a lot of documentation, which you’ll need the first time round:

  • A completed registration form, officially ‘Accommodation Registration From for Foreign Nationals, Residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and Overseas Chinese’ (外国人,港澳台居民、华侨住宿登记表), this will be given to you at the police station.
  • If the police actually visit your house and you haven’t registered, you’ll also fill out another form which may be required (境外人员入户走访登记表).
  • Your passport (护照) and photocopies of the bio page, current visa and last entry stamp.
  • Your spouse’s ID card (身份证) and photocopies of both sides.
  • Marriage Certificate (婚姻证) and photocopies of all pages except the cover.
  • Housing Ownership Certificate (房地产权证) and photocopies of interior pages.
  • Household Registration Booklet (hukou, 户口册), and photocopies of interior pages.

In previous years at our old house because we always went to the same police station (派出所) we only had to bring my passport, my wife’s ID card, and the household register (户口册) and photocopies of each, because we were already in the system. I assume that’s still the case; that once you’re registered you only need these three things to renew registration.

And make sure this police registration is up to date, make sure you go do this now. It used to be that it didn’t really, but now the system is automated and you can get in real trouble for not registering.

Specific notes for Kunming: The visa place is the Exit-Entry Administration of Kunming Municipal Public Security Bureau (昆明出入境管理局) on 118 Tuodong Road (拓东路118号). The place to get photographs (and photocopies) is on the first floor. The place you get your medical is the Yunnan International Travel Hygiene Healthcare Centre (云南国际旅行卫生保健中心) on 359 Guangfu Road (广福路359号). Note this place only opened late 2018, and when we went it was tricky to find the entrance due to roadworks – you have to drive down a sideroad to the west of the building, through a building site, then into the back of the medical centre. The medical also requires a photograph, but they are not strict about where you get it done – and if you don’t have one there’s a photo place in the side street to the east of the Centre. The cost for the medical report is RMB 487.

By-the-by, we tried applying in Dali where we are part-time resident, and they had different requirements. Firstly it was the first time they cared that the passport number in the Marriage Certificate did not match my current passport (it was from several passports previous) and they wanted me to get a new Marriage Certificate. In Kunming they didn’t care about this (and never have). More importantly, they would only give me as much time on my visa as was left on my wife’s (Temporary) Resident Permit (居住证, a small blue booklet for Chinese nationals living outside the area of their household registration (户口)), which was only six months. So we gave up and came to Kunming to apply.

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