Getting married in China,  Living in China

How to get a marriage residence permit in China

Getting a marriage visa in China is an easy process, once you have managed the hurdles of actually getting married to a Chinese citizen. I didn’t apply for a visa as I was already in China, but applied for a residence permit instead. If you apply outside of China, you would apply for a Q1 (long-term reunion visa) visa first and  then you would change that to a residence permit during your first 30 days in China.

Documents needed for applying the marriage residence permit in China:

  • Registration form of temporary residence for visitors: When you come to China with your visa, you need to register at the local police station in 24 hours. If you stay in a hotel, the staff will do this for your. If you are a student, then your university will help you with this. Every time you get a new visa or residence permit, you have to register and get a new form. You need this form when applying for a new residence permit.
  • Official photos with the official receipt: You can take photos at the Entry and Exit Administration Division, which is where you apply for the residence permit.
  • Chinese spouse’s hukou, ID card and copies of each of them: The original documents will be inspected also.
  • Your marriage certificate (aka the red booklet) and a copy of it: The original document will be inspected also.
  • Physical examination record: In order to get this you will need to do a full health check at appointed place in China where you live. In Guangzhou it’s at Guangdong International Travel Healthcare Center and the health check costs 593RMB. Bring official photos, can be taken at a photo shop next to the center, your passport and a copy of it.

With all of these documents you go to the Entry and Exit Administration Division which location you have to check according to the city you live in. In Guangzhou it’s located at Jiefang South Road 155 (解放南路155号), closest metro station is Haizu Square.

The following step by step information only applies to Guangzhou:

  1. If you need to, take photos first at the second floor. Most probably you still have photos left from the physical examination so you can use those, just remember to have the official receipt.
  2. Go to the fifth floor and apply through the online system with the computers provided. There is an officer to help out foreigners, but she is often very busy. Be patient as their system isn’t the friendliest to use. At the end you will be given a long number, write it down. No need for paper application.
  3. Take a waiting number on the fifth floor and wait to get your documents checked. The officer will ask for the number you wrote down first.
  4. After checking the officer will give you a pass to the sixth floor and a new waiting number. There your documents will be checked again and you will be given a receipt with which you can receive your passport with the new residence permit on in two weeks. The date will be written on the paper.
  5. When you come back to get your passport get a waiting number and pay the fee on the fifth floor with your Chinese bank card. The fee for 1 to 3 years residence permits is 800RMB.
  6. After paying you will be given your passport back and you can go home. But don’t forget to re-register at your local police station!

How long can you stay in China with a marriage/spousal residence permit?

When filling out the online form (step 2) the system will ask you how long residence permit are you applying for. I asked the officer helping out and told her “the longer the better” and she told me to apply for two years. And two years I got.

Online I have heard of marriage residence permits between one and two years depending on the city you apply. Always ask your local Entry and Exit Administration Division what are the requirements in your city.

What can you do with a marriage / spousal residence permit?

Working is not allowed with a marriage/spousal residence permit. If you want to work in China, you need a Z-visa and a work residence permit. Before writing a contract be clear that the company must give you all the documents and help you need in order to apply for a Z-visa before you come to China.

Because of work permit issues I’ve had to turn down offers to work for small companies that doesn’t have the right to employ foreigners.

But according to my knowledge you can study with marriage/spousal residence permit no matter if it’s short-term or for a whole degree. I have friends that don’t apply for student visas/residence permits, as they already have a different kind of visa/residence permit (Q1 or S1).

Have you applied for a marriage/spousal visa or residence permit? How did the process go in your city?


  • Charlotte

    Wow! What a nice resource for people who aren’t familiar with this process. I’m in the process of getting a work visa changed to a residence one. I tried to get the permanent permit since the local authorities said I meet all of the qualifications (married at least six years, have X amount of money in the bank, etc) but the county turned me down; no reason given since they don’t have to give one (at least to Americans, due to the reciprocity agreement between the two countries). One thing I’ve leared over the years, keep your expectations of the process and the level of the service you’re given very low and you shouldn’t get too frusterated.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for sharing your experience Charlotte!

    I read elsewhere too that no matter how this foreigner married to a Chinese tried to fill all the criteria for getting a green card, they always had new requirements for him. It seems very very hard to actually get it.

    R Zhao Reply:

    I have also heard this, which is really a shame! I was pretty much told not even to bother with it by the local PSB. I just continue renewing my visa each year (they will only give one year where I live).

  • chinaelevatorstories

    Does your husband have Guangzhou hukou? When we asked about the new visa application process in Shenzhen, the officer told us that since my husband’s hukou is not in SZ, we would only be able to apply for a 1-year residence permit for me here. I would be eligible to apply for a 2-year residence permit in his hometown. Once our baby is born, we can apply for a 2-year residence permit for our child in Shenzhen – in this case, it doesn’t matter where my husband has his hukou. That’s the information we got from the officer, we’ll have to check if this is true once we apply for our child’s residence permit.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Yes, my husband has a Guangzhou hukou as he is local. But when I was filling my application, the officer didn’t ask me where my husband’s hukou is, only how long permit I wanted to apply for. But of course it’s possible that it plaid a part in getting the two years.

  • Frank

    Thank you for this interesting post. Is there an office in Guangzhou where you can get specific informations for each specific case?

    Mike Reply:

    The PSB (Public Security Bureau). You can check on their website, there is a guide for foreigners :

    Frank Reply:

    Thank you Mike

  • R Zhao

    Good post Sara. I would just like to add, if you get married overseas, you have to get your marriage certificate authenticated by the Chinese embassy or consulate that’s in the jursidiction of where the marriage took place.

    I personally have had a lot of troubles applying for a spousal visa in the past (I’ve been married for six years). It seems like the process has gotten better in the past year or two, but I think it’s important to note that the procedure can vary quite a bit from place to place and from year to year.

    R Zhao Reply:

    BTW, I’ve never had to have a physical exam to get my visa. What did that include?

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    It’s the same physical exam that is required for visas and working permits, I thought it’s required for everyone staying more than 6 months. It really includes everything: blood sample, urine sample, x-ray, eyes, ultrasound etc. If there is anything wrong with you, they will surely find out.

  • Wililam

    I have a very important question that I a seem not to be able to find anywhere on these blogs.
    I am American and am married to a Chinese. I hold the Red Book which I got here in China.
    I currently been offered a job and want to know if this is possible?
    1) Can I get a Marriage Residence Visa and then use the work licence permit from the company?
    2) Or do I have to go back to the US and obtain a Z visa?
    From my understanding the Marriage Residence Visa lets you stay in China but not work. The work licence lets you work. So why not use these two together?
    I just want to make sure before I spend the time and money to go back to the US if the Z visa is a must.
    Thank you in advance.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi WIlliam.

    According to my information you need a work visa Z and a work residence permit to be able to work in China legally. I would advice you to ask for more information at your local PSB. Also when applying for jobs, your new company should be the one helping you with visas and residence permits.

    So the first step is to go to the local PSB where they grand residence permits, that’s the best place to get accurate information.

  • Ale

    Hello Sara, thank you for all the information! What kind of visa did you have before applying to the spouse visa? I jam so confused with the spousal residence! I just got married in Qingdao, i hold a M visa and its seems I can only apply to a Q2 visa here in China.

  • w4rb1rd

    To Ale:
    You don’t apply for a VISA in China (its not possible), but for a PERMIT (in this case a spousal permit) and you write on your application how long you wanna your permit to be: 1 year is the shortest. Try it with 2 years! Just like the author of this blog did:
    “I didn’t apply for a visa as I was already in China, but applied for a residence permit instead.”

  • w4rb1rd

    To Ale: (again)
    1. Passport with valid visa
    2. Local Registration Form Of Temporary Residence (up to date)
    3. 2 Passport Photographs (size 4.5cm*3.5cm)
    4. Chinese person’s ID card
    5. Chinese person’s Residence booklet (Hu Kou booklet)
    6. Relationship certificate (to prove you and your Chinese family member’s relationship, for example, your wife is Chinese, then provide the Chinese marriage license. If this certificate is issued from outside of China, then an Embassy/Consulate notarization is necessary)
    7. A warrant letter signed by the Chinese family member []

    Notice 1: If the Chinese person is not local (his/her residence booklet is not from the city you’re applying from), then Chinese person need to provide following 2 extra documents:
    8. Chinese person’s residence permit
    9. Chinese person should work OR own a house in (Employment statement OR property ownership certificate)

    Notice 2:
    Requirements for diferent visa types when applying for a 1 year (and more) spousal permit:

    If applicant hold a valid L or M visa now, then a health certificate is necessary
    If applicant hold a valid working Z visa now, then a company release letter to prove you have already quit with official company stamp is necessary.
    If applicant hold a valid student X visa now, then the school release letter to prove you have already quit with official school stamp is necessary (or you can offer your graduated certificate copy).

    So….. you need a health check (done in hospital for foreigners). Anyway, it was almost a year ago since you wrote your message. So how it went?

  • Tim

    Hi! Great article. It’s super helpful even though I don’t live in Guangzhou. Anyway, I married a Chinese woman and plan to stay in China after I’m done working. How long did it take to receive the marriage residence visa? It sounds like a quick process, but China loves its bureaucracy. Also, when the permit expires do you just redo all the paperwork or do you have to leave the country? If you have to leave, can you hop over to a nearby country or go all the way to your home country? Thank you so much!

  • disqus_OhfcLJnmtz

    Hey great article , helped me in getting my 2 year family reunion residence permit in shenzhen . I noticed they canceled my visa. Are you familiar with the process for extension and renewal of the permit ? Do I have to get another visa or just fill out relevant forms at my local psb?

    Crystal Reply:

    Hi.. Is hepatitis b ok for medical exam?

  • Anand Krishan Singh

    I am from India and currently studying PhD on X1 Visa in Beijing and has received my Resident Permit. My wife has arrived here on S1 Visa and staying with me in my hostel. University has given Temporary Resident Permit for 30 days from the date of arrival.

    Now, I have to apply for her Resident Permit. She has already undergone required Medical Test. I have Original Notorise Marriage Certificate. Do I need to do apostilization of Marriage Certificate or I can apply for resident permit with Original. Do I also require to go to Police Station for any registration or just need to go to office for application of Resident Permit

  • Leana

    Hi Sarah, thank you for this useful blog. By summarizing your article, i found that you now run your own company. Is this possible under the marriage residence permit? or you had to switch to a working permit? Thank you. Leana