Problems with a Group Chinese Visa

Problems with a Group Chinese Visa to Tibet

Problems with a Group Chinese Visa

Here are the differences between a standard Chinese visa and a Group Chinese Visa. In addition to a Chinese visa, all foreigners are still required to have travel permits as they have for the past 30 years. This post is to explain the differences between a Standard Chinese Tourist Visa and a Group Chinese Tourist Visa.

If you plan to go to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) from Mainland China, all you need is a standard Chinese tourist visa, which can be applied for at an embassy or consulate in your home country and in many Chinese embassies and consulates outside of your home country.(NB: foreign residents of China who hold X or Z visas can also travel to Tibet, but need additional documents from their work or school. People holding an F visa can also go to Tibet, but also need additional paperwork in order for travel permits to be issued). However, if you plan to enter the TAR from Nepal, you need to enter on a Group Chinese Visa. If you arrive in Nepal with a standard Chinese tourist visa in your passport, it will be cancelled and you will NOT be able to enter China on it. You will have wasted both your time and your money.

The travel regulations on entering Tibet from Nepal are different than the regulations entering Tibet from the rest of China. The biggest difference is the requirement of the Group Chinese Visa. The Group Chinese Visa is normally only valid for 21 to 28 days and cannot be extended in China. In comparison, a standard Chinese tourist visa is valid from 30 to 90 days, depending on your nationality, and can almost always be extended at least once for an additional 30 days. So, if you book a 14 day tour of Tibet, you will probably only have 7 to 14 days remaining on your group visa to visit other places in China before you have to leave the country. Also, over the past 3 years I have heard several reports of people only getting 15 day group visas if they only book a short tour in Tibet (less than 7 days). Most people who go to Tibet plan on spending a few weeks traveling in China. If you enter from Nepal, you won’t be able to spend as much time in the rest of China after your Tibet tour.

The Potala Palace པོ་ཏ་ལ་, the most famous building in Tibet

The Chinese group Visa  required to enter Tibet from Nepal, can only be arranged by a travel agency. You cannot get this visa on your own. As I stated earlier, if you arrive in Nepal with a standard Chinese tourist visa already in your passport, you will not be able to use this and you will not receive a refund for it. The Group Chinese Visa is not placed in your passport like a standard Chinese tourist visa is. It is a piece of paper that lists everyone in your groups name, gender, nationality and passport number. You will still receive an entrance stamp in your passport, but the actual visa is a piece of paper that you are responsible to hold on to until you depart China.

In the past, you were required to always enter Tibet from Nepal with a group of at least 2 or 3 people. This sometimes would prove to be a major problem when budget travel agencies would place strangers together in a group in order to split the cost of a tour to Tibet. That group of strangers would then be forced to travel to all of the same places in China at the same time and exit the country at the same time, at the same place. This of course, would cause all kinds of problems because the agencies usually didn’t explain in detail what the Group Chinese Visa was and that the group had to be together until they exited China. Groups of strangers who had different travel plans in China quickly ran into major difficulties! The past several years, it has been quite easy to get the Group Chinese Visa as a solo traveler. You still have to be part of an organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide, private vehicle and a driver, but you can normally get a group visa for just yourself. The only times when the government makes groups of 2 or 3 travel together is when the TAR has just recently reopened after a closing, such as the annual closure in March. In early April when the area reopens, the government sometimes requires people entering Tibet from Nepal to be in a group of 2 or 3. Do keep in mind though, that travel regulations for Tibet can change at anytime.

Small village on the way to Everest Base Camp

Woman in Lhasa spinning a prayer wheel

Because of the Group Chinese Visa restrictions, I almost always recommend people to travel from Mainland China to Tibet and then on to Nepal. By traveling this direction, you avoid having to get a group visa and can enter on a standard Chinese tourist visa. This allows you far more time to travel in China.

If you have any questions regarding Group Chinese Visas, feel free to email me at

Losang བློ་བཟང་

10 thoughts on “Problems with a Group Chinese Visa

  1. Lindsay

    Can you break a group visa if one of the party need to return home, is there a procedure for this?

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      A group Chinese visa is not placed in your passports, but is a single piece of paper with all of the names, nationalities and passport numbers of the people in your group. Since this is just on 1 single piece of paper, you all MUST stay together. Years ago, it was possible to “separate” from the Group Chinese Visa by going to a Public Security Bureau (PSB) office somewhere in China and ask for them to give you each your own tourist visa. However, I have not heard of this being possible for at least 4 or 5 years. You can try asking a PSB official in a large city if they can each give you your own Chinese visa, but reports over the past several years suggest that it is not possible to do.

      1. JDT


        Do the PSB grant individual visa’s if on Group visa or it is still not possible,as in case of an emergency what is the best option? Please help

  2. Christina

    We are a group of 2 traveling from Nepal to Tibet. I noticed the last response was back in 2014. Do the rules for entering Tibet from Nepal still apply and we still need a Group Chinese visa?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Yes, the travel regulations, including the need to obtain a Group Chinese Visa, remain the same. These regulations for going from Nepal to Tibet have been in place for a very long time and most likely will not change for many years to come.


  3. Will

    Hi, thanks for the info, but I would like to clarify something. I am hoping to take a tour from Nepal to Lhasa (8-10 days) and then do some solo travelling in mainland China after Lhasa (14 days or so). Does this mean I will require a Group Chinese Visa (for the tour) AND a tourist visa (for the solo travel after)? Judging from the name I’m guessing the Group Chinese Visa wouldn’t cover me for the solo travel (though it would be great if it does)? Thanks in advance!

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hi Will…Tibet is part of China, therefore a Group China Visa is valid for Tibet AND all of Mainland China. You only need one visa. The term “Group Chinese Visa” is misleading as it implies you have to travel with a group. This is FALSE. A Group Chinese Visa can be issued to a solo traveler from the China Embassy in Kathmandu. I have emailed you further info. Enjoy your journey!