Chinese Visa In Expired Passport: How Does It Work?

Filed Under: Travel

Over the summer I had to renew my US passport. I was excited to get all those extra blank pages in my passport, though there are also some minor quirks to be aware of.

For example, if you have Global Entry then you have to update your passport information through your Trusted Traveler Program account, so that it continued to be valid. I found the process to be pretty easy, and I haven’t had any issues at the border.

One other interesting consideration with a new passport is what happens to multiple entry visas that you have in your old passport.

I just traveled to Beijing for one night, and wasn’t eligible for a transit without visa, since I was flying to & from Hong Kong (and you can only do a transit without visa if you’re traveling from one country/territory to another country/territory via select mainland China ports).

So in this post I wanted to share my experience with using a Chinese visa in an expired passport.

Chinese Visas & Expired Passports

I have a 10 year Chinese visa, which I applied for in 2015, so it’s valid through 2025. Meanwhile my previous passport expired in 2019.

The good news is that your Chinese visa continues to be valid in the expired passport, as long as you travel with your current and expired passport:

  • You’ll just have to show your current and expired passports whenever a visa is needed
  • When you fill out immigration cards, enter your current passport number, and then enter your visa number from your expired passport

My current and expired passports

How Does It Work In Practice?

Going into this trip I knew that was technically the policy, though I wondered how it would work in practice. For example, airport employees are sometimes misinformed on policies, so I wondered if I’d get issues at any point in the travel process for having my visa in an expired passport.

Much to my surprise, there were no issues at all:

  • There were no issues when I checked in at a US airport for my flight to Beijing (via Hong Kong)
  • There were no issues in Hong Kong when I was connecting and had to show my visa
  • There were no issues upon arrival at immigration
  • There were no issues when I checked into a hotel in Beijing and had to show my visa
  • There were no issues upon departure at immigration

I know that this is how it’s supposed to work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will always work that way.

So for the next few years I’ll be traveling with three passports — my current US one, my expired one, and my German one.

My three passports

If you’ve visited a country with a valid visa in an expired passport, what was your experience like?

Comments
  1. The officials in China and elsewhere appear to be quite accustomed to this situation and have never raised a concern.

  2. Had experience on this with visas from the US, UK, Schengen, Japan, China, and South Korea. Never met a single problem. In fact, I always find it amusing when the immigration officers get nervous as they scroll through pages after pages of visas through my passports and seem to can’t find the right visas for my port of entry 😛

  3. Hi Lucky,
    As someone who works in the visa side of international students – this is really common. The US for example often gives 5 year visas when the passport is nearing expiration date. The time on the visa is based on a lot of other things and does not take into account the passport’s expiration time in most cases.

    So travel with all your passports. Just make sure that you have a passport that has validity and a visa for the needed country that has validity. There are actually special adhesives you can buy to stick the two passports together (also happens when a passport is valid but runs out of pages and you need the visa from the old one)

    This is really common.

  4. I picked up my 14th passport earlier this week due to exhaustion of pages – I have valid visas from various countries going back 5 passports now (I average a new passport every 18 months or so nowadays).

    The only thing to note is that you sometimes need to show continuity of passports. So if you have a visa endorsed in passport A and you are traveling with passport E, you need to also carry the interim passports B, C and D.

  5. I literally just got back from China having to use both my expired passport with my visa and my new passport without it. I had no issues, all Chinese customs agents and hotel staff seemed to be well versed on travel this way (given a 10 year visa it must not be wholly uncommon).

  6. US and European passport holders don’t generally need visas to many countries and so don’t have enough experience… but generally, most countries allow visas to continue to be valid on expired passports. You can also transfer your old visa into the new passport and some embassies charge you and some don’t. But I have never paid more money and as long as it was a former valid but expired US passport I have not had issues.

    Also, I have a new passport and GE works just fine… The U.S. govt knows your previous passport number anyway 🙂 Just do the new passport when you reapply for GE

  7. @Patrick W: yeah, it does need one! I’m in this very situation and I had wondered how this would work in practice. A good set of use cases is handy for me.

  8. Let’s turn it around: Does anyone know of a single country that will refuse a non-expired visa, because it’s affixed to an expired passport, when the traveller presents a valid replacement passport? I’d expect it to be rare that a visa’s expiry would be linked to a passport’s expiry.

  9. Traveled to Russia earlier this year with a Visa in my old passport (hadn’t expired, just out of pages). The customs agent in Moscow told me that I was lucky he was nice and he could have turned me around for having it in an “ineligible passport” despite having both passports with me. It freaked me enough to pay a $30 (if I remember correctly) transfer fee to have the Visa moved to my current passport when I got back to NY.

  10. @DenB, I assume you are from a first world country and hence don’t understand the pain of visas and immigration for those of us from sh**ho*e countries. As someone on a Nigerian passport I can tell you that a number of countries demand that you get a new visa if old passport is no longer valid even if the visa is still valid. Off the top of my head I can tell you that Malaysia requires that. A number of South East asian countries do so as well though they won’t even give you a visa in the first place if your passport isn’t valid for 6 months longer than your intended stay and often issue a single entry visa for 1-3 months. I once had a 1 year multiple entry visa for Malaysia but the passport ran out of pages and so had to get a new one, I couldn’t use the old visa anymore even though it was still valid. Had to get a new one

  11. @adriel I have the same problem but just put a post it on the visa page as a book mark.

    @patrick I guess an article is required since most Americans probably think a visa is what they carry in their wallet 🙂 (just joking!)

  12. I was once nearly denied boarding with a valid US visa in an expired passport. The airline made me write an affidavit and sign it saying I would be deported back at my own cost.

  13. I don’t understand why you were not eligible for a transit visa. My understanding was that travel to/from HKG or Macau is considered separate region from mainland China and therefore eligible for transfer visa.

  14. Well, ESTA is linked to your passport. But if the passport is expired ESTA is, too. Even if it is usually good for 2 years. One has to apply new and pay the full fee.

  15. I don’t have any experience with visas, but thanks for the reminder to update the passport number with Global Entry…I needed to do that!

  16. @Vijay
    Joking aside, when I was a child, that’s exactly what I thought it was.
    I knew about the credit card brand, I also knew you needed a visa to get into certain countries. My young mind assumed they were the same thing since they were called the same thing.

  17. Anyone know what happens with a Chinese 10 year visa if someone changes their name? My wife has one and hasn’t changed her name yet, will the visa no longer be valid when she takes my last name?

  18. Have traveled to India multiple times with a valid Business visa in my expired US passport. No issues in spite of rumors to the contrary…

  19. Just a note that we discovered last time we got a new passport for my wife. If you have a damaged passport, they will not give it back to you when you replace it, so you will have to replace any visas. I don’t know of any way to transfer a visa from a damaged passport to a new passport that doesn’t exist yet.

  20. I think the explanation and rationale here would apply to most countries, even thought there might not be any clarification on PRC’s website?

    https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/frequently-asked-questions/about-basics.html

    If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports, as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism). Both passports (the valid and the expired one with the visa) should be from the same country. When you arrive at the U.S. port-of-entry (POE, generally an airport or land border) the Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer will check your visa in the old passport and if s/he decides to admit you into the United States they will stamp your new passport with an admission stamp along with the annotation “VIOPP” (visa in other passport). Do not try to remove the visa from your old passport and stick it into the new valid passport. If you do so, your visa will no longer be valid.

  21. @Ken, your post is the only one that provided (some) info on the pertinent topic. You named Malaysia in answer to my question and I’m grateful for the datapoint. I can’t, for the life of me, understand how I earned the tone of your first sentence, but I’m not in your shoes.

    Peace

  22. Andrei why make it harder for someone to do their job by not opening your passport to the page with the right visa or putting a slip of paper in the page to help them and thus help you?

    It’s like those people as boarding gates and passport control who complain it’s too slow they hand their own passport over closed making it even slower for everyone!

  23. @DB , I don’t remember there is a field like previous name on US passport, but I know there is a such field on Chinese passport. if you have both name on the new passport it should work.

  24. India is the same. You can use your expired visa. You are lucky to have a passport that entitles you to a 10 year visa. Having a US Visa often allows you entry into certain Asian nations. Pretty sure for Australia you would need a new visa.

  25. @farnorthtrader

    I had a damaged 10 year Chinese visa(US, it went through the washer but the visa was completely fine) and they returned my passport when I mailed it in to renew . I tried looking up if the Visa was still valid but couldn’t find anywhere.

    For anyone searching “Water Damaged Chinese Visa” still valid. It was fine using my new passport along with my damaged passport with visa when I went on a multi country trip from US to Taipei to Beijing, took a train to Datong, stayed at a hotel, took the train back to Beijing, and flew back to Taipei, and then back to the US.

    Note that that nothing on the visa was damaged and everything was still readable.

  26. @kyall About 5 years ago, the US and the PRC made a reciprocal agreement to grant multiple-entry 10 year tourist visas. You must have a passport with at least 12 months left before expiration.

  27. I have this situation and the only issue I’ve ever had is when I went to do online check-in on a flight to China. I was on UA and after scanning my passport in the app, it would ask for my Chinese visa and would reject it when I scanned it. I’m assuming it’s because my passport number (new passport) didn’t match the passport number (old passport) written on the visa and they would need to check photos – though it would just give a generic error message, so it’s possible it was something else.

  28. This article should specify that you’re talking about the People’s Republic of China and not the Republic of China, which is the government on Taiwan.

  29. … And what to do when they pierce holes in the old passport in such way that the important data becomes unreadable?

  30. @derek nonsense. He clearly refers to “Chinese visa” not “Taiwanese”, the preferred term among the most easily offended among citizens of Taiwan ROC. Moreover the article makes clear that Beijing is where he’s heading.

  31. The same is for US visas. I have been using my current passport and a valid US visa on an expired passport to enter the US for the past 5 years.

  32. I have been traveling to China for the last three years. I’ve traveled on multiple different airlines and dozens of ports of entry in to China. I have never had the slightest problem.

  33. This practice has gone on for a long time. At least since 1974. Not surprising that Russia is the only country where someone mentioned it as a problem. The immigration offer was looking for a bribe probably. Like everything in the Russian kleptocracy.

  34. I’ve been wondering about this. I have a 10-year India visa expiring in 2028 and my passport will expire 2021.

  35. I have traveled to India with a valid unexpired 10 year visa in my old expired US passport and a new US passport and there were no issues

  36. As a holder of a “weak” passport (where i need visas to go everywhere), this is a common practice – at least in countries like US, UK, EU, JPN, etc

  37. Hi Lucky, typically I travel with 3 passports as they contain multiple residencies and visas. To be on the safe side, I always make sure the officialls don’t punch those two holes through the passport pages with a visa. 20+ years of travel and about 2.5 million miles later, never experienced a single issue (cue in my next trip to encounter a problem). Truth to be told, I am happiest in UAE and Singapore, as residents use their Emirates ID or EP/PR card to travel.

  38. I have been based in China for many years and I often get related questions.

    1. The only reason why you were able to use two passports is because the visa in the old passport was valid still and this was a tourist or business visa. If you hold other types of visas such as a work related residence permit, then the visa has to be moved which may require other documents to be updated first. It’s also complicated if you have some other types of visas if you do not renew your passport in China because some visas are only issued within China.

    2. As you correctly mentioned you were able to take advantage of the visa on arrival because of your nationality and the location you were coming in from and departing to next.

  39. Because I have visited Libya I now have a 10 year visa in a passport that has now expired. So when I travelled to Washington recently I took, and presented, both passports. Without an explanation the immigration officer placed both my passports into a sealed transparent box and directed me to a hall where about two hundred people, mainly Latin Americans, I think, were sitting. The box was taken from me and I was told to wait. Which I did for about two hours after which I was summoned to one of five desks where my documents were handed back to me and I entered the country. At no time did anyone explain what was happening!

  40. @DenB:

    Indeed, Malaysia is the only country I have come across that has doesn’t adhere to the process of allowing visa on an expired passport.
    My friend (American passport holder) was turned back from KL immigration. Lucky for him, he went to SG and got the visa done.

    Wish the Malaysian authorities would change the practice. Alas, having lived there and seen the bureaucracy first hand, don’t think it’ll change soon!

  41. Yes, DenB. In answer to your question, the US.

    If your passport expires before the 2 year expiry date of the US ESTA (which is really 6 months shorter because you can’t enter within 6 months of expiry anyway), then they won’t accept it being used for the remaining time with another passport. You have to buy another one.

  42. I think that it is important to remind people that there are simple tricks you can do to save pages in your passport. Some people use post-its, while others, like myself use paperclips. Once a stamp is on a page, it cannot be used for a visa or another purpose. Some places such as China have a specific page they will generally stamp on – the page opposite the visa, or behind that page if it is full. Other countries stamp on the visa (very convenient), where as others just stamp anywhere. Such tricks are useful because Americans cannot add pages to their passports anymore.

    Also, most countries have a six month or one year expiry rule.

  43. Exact same situation here. I travel to China About 2x per year and I’ve been in this situation for the last 3 years or so. I’ve had NO problems whatsoever.

  44. Lived in the UAE for many years and had a work visa in an expired passport that was valid for several more passport lifetimes.

    Recently received a 10 year visa for China – but my passport only had 9 1/2 years left – so the visa was validated for 9 years only (to 6 months less than the passport expiry). Don’t know if this is a common thread or only because of the 10 year passport (normal Canadian passports are 5 year).

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