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Timeline for Student Visa? (And Tourist -> Student conversion)

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I will attend university in China, with the program starting September 15th. I plan(ned) to fly to china at the end of July/beginning of August with my tourist visa, and during that 30 day period, get my visa changed to a student visa. I've got it on pretty good authority that the change from Tourist to Student visa could be done without leaving the mainland, so I'm not super worried about that.


The big issue may be, how close to my program start date does it have to be for me to get my student visa and have a valid student status? Arriving August 1st would still put me outside of 2 weeks before the program if I ride out the full 30 days. Would that be close enough or do I need to wait until the start date is closer?

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If you will be attending university in China from September, then I would not recommend traveling there as a tourist during either July or August:

  1. It will be too early to enter China on the student visa.

    For "X1" visa holders, for study longer than six months, arriving so early will make it difficult to have both registered at the school and initiated the process of conversion to a Residence Permit, through the local PSB, within 30 days of arrival.  Also, once the Residence Permit conversion process has been initiated, the passport could be in the possession of the PSB for up to two weeks making air/rail travel and registering at a hotel no longer an option at that time.

    For "X2" visa holders, for study up to six months, arriving so early starts the clock ticking and could result in the visa expiring before the end of the school term.
  2. Only one visa can be issued to an individual at a time.  So, simply obtaining both visas before departure isn't an option.
  3. Entering on a tourist "L" visa and converting to a student "X1"/"X2" might be possible (don't count on it), but it is far from a guarantee.  Even if it is, adding such a bureaucratic hassle to the process of getting settled in a new country is simply asking for trouble.  If, for whatever reason, converting it were not possible, then an emergency visa run to exit China, apply for a new visa abroad, and re-enter the country on the new one would suddenly be required, potentially adding significant cost/risk.

Keep in mind that you will have plenty of opportunity to travel in China while studying there, especially if you are taking a multi-year degree program.

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