China Student Visa Update: X Marks the What?

In late 2013 China changed its visa system for foreign aliens. This piece offers a simple related update, focusing on three key points as applying to students: 1) Explanation of the new X1 vs X2 visas; 2) Can students now work in China?; 3) Can students work in China after graduating with a Chinese degree?

1.     X1 vs X2 Visas.

Previously short-term student visitors to China held F visas, and long-term students held X visas. Now short-term (periods less than 6 months) students hold X2 visas. Long-term students (greater than six months) hold X1 visas. According to the Law and Border blog, X2 visa holders must register with their local Public Security Bureau within 30 days of arriving in China. This is not required of X1 visa holders. X1 visa holders with a legal driving permit from their home country are also allowed to apply to drive in China, where X2 visa holders are not. 

2. Can Students Work in China?

X2 visa holders are not permitted to work in China. X1 visa holders may only do this with permission of their school and registering the employment with the Public Security Bureau Exit-Entry Administration. This appears to be a normalisation of a similar process in place before the changes. See earlier piece on Sinograduate.

3. Can Students Work in China After Graduating with a Chinese degree?

China is promoting itself as a destination for international students. Doing a degree in China however, at least presently, offers no automatic advantages in being able to work in China thereafter. Rather, all applicants for work visas are considered equal around their degree, and must have at least two years’ consistent work experience. 

With foreign multinationals and foreign governments pushing to have some of their young citizenry and workers with early experience of China, there is work underway to change this system. This would allow at least some foreign degree-takers in China to take work in China immediately after graduation. In the USA for example, foreign PhD graduates are able to reside in the USA for an additional year after graduation, to look for work, see the country, and work out their next steps. The equivalent in China is roughly two weeks after the graduation ceremony.

For now however, that campaign is nascent, and thus the two-year consistent work experience requirement stands. Those wishing to study and/or work in China, with Chinese degree or without, should take note of both what has and has not changed.


Law and Border, “FAQ: China’s New Visa Law (Updated Nov. 30

Sinograduate, “Can International Students Work in China?”

Sinograduate, Long Term Student Basics: Registration and the Driving Test in China

Lauren has worked in economic policy and research at the World Bank, World Economic Forum, EIU and for the governments of Sierra Leone and Guyana. She has learned Chinese since 1995, and lived in Beijing for almost six years, on and off since 1997. Lauren has a PhD in Economics from Peking University, an MSc in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and a B.A/B.Com from the University of Melbourne.

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