Overstaying your visa on the Chinese mainland
Don’t overstay your visa. This seems obvious, and yet we hear enough stories of people doing this that it bears repeating that this is not a good idea at all. Here’s why.
Although the punishments described below vary in severity, overstaying your visa at all may jeopardize any future visa applications. In most cases, you will get a written warning saying that you cannot overstay your visa again within a given period of time.
There is no “grace period”
Unfortunately, the rule that allowed for a ten-day grace period is no longer in operation in China. That means that you may be liable to pay a fine from the first day that you overstay your visa.
If you find yourself in this situation while trying to exit China the border officials’ reaction may be anything from giving you a telling off and letting you go, to asking a few questions, to even denying you passage until you pay a fine.
If you’re not on your way out of the country when you discover your situation, you should go straight to the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau, where officials will interview you and ask you to sign a written statement (basically declaring that you have been very foolish). You may have to pay a fine at this point, although if this is your first offence it is possible that you will be sent on your way with an order to sort out your visa situation and not to make the same mistake again.
Unfortunately, exactly what will happen is difficult to say, and there are no guarantees that overstaying by just a small amount of time won’t have some kind of negative effect.
If your visa expired more than a few days ago, you will almost certainly be fined. The fine is 500 yuan per day , with a maximum fine of 10,000 yuan. For example, if you overstay by 12 days you’ll be fined 1,000 yuan.
You may also be given an official letter of warning. This means you have been placed on a two-year probationary period. You shouldn’t have any problems applying for or renewing visas during this period, but if you overstay again you may be blacklisted.
If you overstay your visa by a significant period (this is usually considered as being over one month, but basically it’s up to the discretion of the officials you find yourself dealing with), you may even be jailed for 5-15 days, and/or deported.
If you are deported, you will be given a red stamp in your passport that gives you 10 days to leave China. You will then be banned from returning to China for ten years. If you are merely “ordered to leave” you may not be blacklisted. For more information on these two sanctions, see this article.
Your embassy or consulate is unlikely to be willing to intervene on your behalf in any dispute over staying in China on an expired visa. However, in extreme cases it is worth trying to talk to them anyway – they may at least be able to offer you a specific route out of your situation. In most cases, though, it’s up to you to know when your visa will expire, and to deal with the consequences.
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