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Studying Mandarin in China – Student Visa’s & Arriving in China

Application Guide on Studying Mandarin in China - (Part 2 of 2) Applying for your Student Visa and Arriving in China

Studying Mandarin in China - Getting a Student Visa

This is part 2 of our guide on Studying Mandarin in China.  This guide will cover the process between applying for your Student Visa at your local embassy, through to what your first week will be like on Campus.

We originally studied in China in 2013, during the Spring Semester (February – June) on a Standard Language course.  The first few weeks are undoubtedly the toughest you will face.  Depending on where you study, might mean little to no other English speakers around and the fact everything is written in Chinese Characters makes it virtually indecipherable unless you have a decent knowledge already.

The great thing about China these days, is that things are far easier for foreigners than it used to be.  There are shops that cater for all foreign imports of food / drink.  Plenty of expat groups in many Tier 1/2 cities that you can get support from. In your first few weeks living China, if you are feeling down / depressed, there are avenues for support available.  Your University professors will hold the best opportunity for guidance on things, make sure you have their mobile number stored on your phone!!

This Guide (Part 2):
  1. Chinese Student Visa – The process to getting your Chinese Study Visa
  2. Booking your flights & being ready for arrival in China
  3. Registration at University / Accommodation & Paying your Fees
  4. First Week at University / College in China
Previous Guide (Part 1):
  1. Application schedules (When you can apply / get accepted)
  2. What courses are available to me as a Foreign Student?
  3. Finding a course and applying
  4. Getting accepted on a course – preparations you need to make

 Process of Getting Your Chinese Student Visa 

Overview of process

According to the Chinese Embassy’s website, it is advised that visa application should be submitted a month before your planned trip to China.  So if you start in the Spring Semester, you should apply for your Visa in January.  There is a limit on how far in advance you can apply for your Visa.  When you get the Visa issued, it will have a 3 month validity from date of issue.  But embassies will usually not process applications if you are 3 months from date of intended departure.  Basically the time to apply for a visa is 4-6 weeks before you intend to be in China.

If you have submitted all documents required, it normally takes 3-4 working days.  Depending on your local embassy, you may be able to pay extra for a fast-track service.

However, in order to apply your student visa, you need to have the essential JW202 form from your university. There is not a settled date for the university to issue the JW202 form, because universities located in different provinces have their own pace for releasing this important form.  The sooner you apply for entrance to a course with a Chinese University, the better your chances are of getting the JW202 form sooner.

What you will need with you to make a visa application for China:

Visa Application Form and Photo One completed Visa Application Form with a recently-taken colour passport photo (bare-head, full face) against a light background attached
Your Passport You need to have your physical passport.  They need this to affix the visa.
Admission Notice Letter This will be posted to you once you are accepted at the University you applied to.
JW202 Application Form This will be posted to you once you are accepted at the University you applied to.
Visa For China Declaration Form Visit and follow ‘Step By Step' guidance, it will give you the PDF link for this. You must sign it.

Chinese Visa Types for Students:

Study of less than 6 months You need an F-Type Visa.  You will NOT need a medical exam either.
Study of less than 12 months X2 Visa: Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of no more than 180 days.
Study of more than 12 months X1 Visa: Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days.

Applying for your Visa at your local Chinese Embassy:

China operates a worldwide standard application process for visa's.  Visit to book an appointment and download required application forms.

  1. Book an appointment at your local embassy
  2. Bring in all the required material on day of your appointment
  3. Wait your turn and go to the counter to hand in all the materials
  4. You will get given a ‘pick-up' receipt, which you need to retain in order to pick up your passport.
  5. Return on date / time on the receipt, pay your visa fee's and then receive your passport back.

And that's it, simple really!

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 Booking Your Flight / Last Minute Preparations  

Because we were flying out from Malaysia, we booked our flights fairly last minute.  Also because Airasia had just introduced it's Shanghai service when we were out in Malaysia, it meant we got a great deal last-minute.

There are just a few points that need to be made for being ready for your arrival in China..

  • It goes without saying, make sure you have your visa sorted before arrival.  Otherwise you ain't going anywhere!  Bring along all of the original copies of your Visa Application (JW202 Form) and acceptance letters, etc..  You will need these at registration at University.
  • Depending on your method of getting to campus, it is worth ensuring you have the address you need to be taken to written in Chinese.  This will help with taxi drivers.  We actually stayed in Shanghai for a couple of nights before heading to Ningbo.  I made sure I had addresses of our hotel in Shanghai, and campus address in Ningbo both written down in Chinese.  Again, just helps overcome the language barrier.  PinYin is not easily understood by many in China.
  • Cash is king – make sure you take a good amount of Yuan notes with you, before you travel.  Just in case you come into problems with ATM's in China, it is worthwhile taking cash out beforehand.

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 Registration at University / Accommodation & Paying Fees 

In your application pack from CUCAS, you should get details on where you need to arrive on Campus to register.  The first day you arrive, you will simply be sorting out your accommodation and other basic provisions (like food / water).

Ningbo University Foreign Student Block

Our Student Accommodation!

Your accommodation fees will be taken at this point, that will include the full amount for total duration of your residence, along with room deposit and first months of electric / water fees.  Some Universities might also give you access to Internet, this might be an additional payment.

It is quite a funny / scary situation to be in on your first week.  The reason being is that most Universities only accept cash payment, with the highest denomination of Yuan being 100RMB.  That is roughly $15 / £10.  So you can imagine the stacks of cash required to simply pay for accommodation.  Also as a piece of advice, you will find throughout China, when paying deposits, etc.. You will be given a paper receipt.  If you lose this, you lose the deposit – so keep it in a safe place.  That goes for all receipts for payments you make to the University.

After paying for your room, you will be shown to it and the facilities available on site.  Such as laundry, kitchens, etc..  You should also be told when the registration is / where it is going to take place for your course.  It is important to attend this as you will be introduced to the University, important contacts and if you are studying on a course longer than 6 months, be registered for the Medical Examination that you will be taken to within the first 7 days of registering.

During the registration day, you will also need to pay your tuition fees, along with a variety of other costs (these would have been communicated to you by CUCAS beforehand), they can include Medical Examination Fee, Insurance, Residence Permit, Course Material (Books), etc..

I guess a prerequisite to the registration day is it is advisable to get a SIM Card and local phone number.  This way you can register it with the University and get free alerts for when lessons are cancelled / trips are scheduled.  Just drop into a China Mobile / China Unicom / China Telecom shop at try your best at miming ‘I want a SIM Card' – perhaps even learn the Chinese for this – “Wo Yao SIM Ka“.  They don't have Nano SIMS generally available, but can cut the sim card down to the right size for iPhones.

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 Your First Week at University in China 

Darryl learning Chinese

Attempting to learn Chinese

This might be a little nerve-racking!  You will be meeting new people from all over the world.  Some with a grasp of basic Chinese and others without any knowledge.  We were the only British people on our course, in fact I didn't notice another British accent anywhere on campus.  Most foreign students at Ningbo were from Africa, Philippines, Indonesia, India / Pakistan and a few European and Americans.

We were lucky as we had each other.  I tell you the biggest salvation was finally getting internet access in our room (our University didn't provide it).  Somehow navigating through paying for the service, getting an engineer to install it and luckily having BootCamp installed on my Mac (apparently our ISP was incompatible with Mac). We got all of this done after roughly a week or 2.  Having the internet opens up so many possibilities, as it means translating things is far easier and for me Google Maps just made it possible to navigate around the city.

Our favourite retreat from Campus!

Our favourite retreat from Campus!

Your first week will really be getting some basic learned in classes.  There will be homework from the outset and getting your head around pronunciation is the hardest thing to learn.  Make sure you do take time out to explore the local area though, as if you can find some home comforts (for me this was LaoWaiTan – which had European style pubs and Ole – a posh supermarket with all foreign imports) it makes it easier to settle in.

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That ends our guide on Studying Mandarin in China.  If there are any questions you may have, please use the comment box.  And of course, if you found this article particularly helpful – we would appreciate a share on Twitter / Facebook!

We've put together some additional guides you might find useful on China:

About Darryl Hall (85 Articles)
Darryl left the shorelines of England in 2013 to study and travel in China and South East Asia for a year. Darryl is a co-founder of, a travel blog with the aim of sharing travel tips, country & city guides for other backpackers. Visit my Google+ page.

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