There are four types of Chinese visas: ordinary, service, courtesy and diplomatic, according to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. Other than in rare circumstances where a person is granted visa-free entry based on specific criteria, all foreign citizens must obtain a passport prior to arriving in China. Travelers who stay in an airport in China for less than 24 hours as part of a layover are exempt.
Entry into China is not guaranteed by the presence of a visa because the right of entry is reserved by Chinese Border Control authority in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations, states the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. A visa identifies how many times a person is allowed to enter mainland China, whether it be a single-entry, double-entry or multiple-entry.
U.S. citizens traveling to China only need to apply for a mainland visa, according to the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. Non U.S. citizens must also apply for a HKSAR/Macao SAR visa if they plan to travel to Hong Kong, Macao or other cities not considered part of mainland China.