What is the change? Local authorities in Beijing and Shanghai have stopped issuing M visa letters of invitation in some cases, a move that reflects China’s increasing willingness to accept letters of invitation from Chinese companies rather than government offices.

What does the change mean? The change is not designed to limit or restrict M visa issuance, but rather represents a change in process. China appears to be moving toward providing more M visas with letters of invitation from companies rather than government offices, a change that could make the application process easier.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing. Offices in Beijing and Shanghai confirmed that as of Aug. 25 they have stopped issuing M visa letters of invitation, though one office in Shanghai is still issuing the letters for applicants from some countries. Offices in other major cities report no change.
  • Visas/permits affected: M visas (business visas).
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals applying for M visas.
  • Impact on processing times: The change in some instances may make the overall M visa application process shorter because applicants will be able to obtain letters of invitation from a company rather than a government office.
  • Next steps: M visa applicants should be sure to check on letter of invitation requirements with the consulate where they are applying for a visa, as requirements vary depending on where the application is lodged. Letters of invitation will still be issued if an applicant needs one in order to obtain a visa.

Background: M visa applications require a letter of invitation either from a government agency or private company, depending on where the application is lodged. As of Aug. 25, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce suspended issuance of M visa letters of invitation. In Shanghai, the Pudong District Foreign Affairs Office and the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce also stopped issuing letters. The Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office, however, said it will continue to issue letters of invitation if required for applicants from some countries. Authorities in Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Xi’an reported no change and, for now, will continue to issue letters of invitation.

BAL Analysis: China’s increasing willingness in the M Visa process to accept letters of invitation from businesses rather than local government offices is welcome news for business travelers. Requirements vary from consulate to consulate, however. M Visa applicants should check with the appropriate consulate or their BAL professional to make sure they obtain the all necessary documentation when submitting an application.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in China. For additional information, please contact

About Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP
Founded in 1980, Berry Appleman & Leiden (BAL) provides comprehensive global immigration services from six offices across the U.S. and from offices in Geneva, London, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. BAL manages global visa matters and customized application approaches for work permits, business visas, and residence permits in more than 100 countries. With a single cost center for worldwide operations, BAL offers centralized management with regional and local support for the complete spectrum of global immigration matters.


Source: Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP