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F-visa, possible to extend, how long?

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last year I studied at a private school for a couple of months, I was on a tourist visa (Italian passport, so no 10 years multiple entry). This year I would like to study for longer, about six months. The school cannot provide an X2 visa, but they can arrange an F-visa (for a maximum of six months). 


Because of some problems back home, I'm not sure if I'll be able to stay six months, so I was thinking of applying first for a 3 months F-visa, and in case I can stay longer, extend it for three more months.


Are extensions of F-visas possible? Are they usually granted and for how long? I would obviously have the school supporting documents.


I'm currently not in my home country, but I've contacted an agency in Hong Kong and I can arrange my visa there.


Has anybody been in China on an F-visa for a long period of time lately?




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