While there are various ways to obtain a China visa for Canton fair visitors, an Invitation letter is possibly the most straightforward way.
In this article, we explain how you can obtain a Canton Fair Invitation Letter, using the official online application system.
What is the Canton Fair?
The Canton Fair is the longest running and the largest trade show in China. The Canton Fair is held in the capital of the southern Guangdong province – Guangzhou.
The trade fair is open for a limited time only, during the spring (April and May) and the autumn (October and November).
In addition, it’s also divided into three phases:
• Vehicles and Parts
• Hardware & Tools
• Construction Materials
• Pet Products
• Watches & Accessories
• Toys & Children’s Products
• Promotional Products
• Home Products
• Textiles & Apparel
• Food Products
Notice that the lists above are non-exhaustive, and subject to change. Check the official website to stay up to date with changes.
What is an Invitation Letter?
An Invitation letter can be issued by various parties, both organizations and individuals, to help an applicant secure a visa.
As most nationalities must obtain a visa to enter Mainland China, the Canton Fair provides visitors with invitation letters – in order successfully apply and obtain a business visa, prior to arrival in China.
The Invitation letter, once issued, can be handed directly to the local Chinese embassy, together with the visa application form.
Notice that the visa is not issued upon arrival, but must be obtained before you board the flight.
Why do I need an Invitation Letter to attend the Canton Fair in Guangzhou?
As mentioned, most nationalities must obtain a visa prior to arriving in China. As such, business visitors shall obtain a so called business visa (M-Visa).
Generally, an M-visa requires an invitation letter, which can be issued by a Chinese company (private or state owned) or organization.
A Canton Fair invitation letter is not required to visit the fair. In fact, many buyers obtain invitation letters from their existing suppliers – as they intend to visit them before or after the trade show.
That said, as a new buyer, you may not have an existing supplier network to lean back on, which is why the Canton fair offers this service to its visitors.
How much does it cost?
The Invitation letter application is free of charge.
a. Buyer Badge Application
The first step of the application is to go to the official website (link), register yourself online.
Once you have your account set up, you must register for a Buyer Badge.
Buyer badge registration is a required to apply for the invitation letter, and also gives you free access to the Canton
Fair, while non pre-registered visitors must pay 300 RMB ($45) per day.
b. Invitation Letter Application
Once you have applied for the Buyer Badge, you can make your online application for the Invitation letter.
The Invitation letter may be issued digitally, or as a paper copy sent to your address.
Notice that the requirements are subject to change.
c. Visa application
Once you have the Invitation letter, you can apply for a business visa, to access China.
The application normally takes 3 to 4 working days.
Note: Additional documentation may be required, depending on the nationality of the applicant and the country of application.
Are there other ways to enter Mainland China?
Yes, as mentioned, you can obtain an invitation letter from a supplier or other organization you intend to do business with.
The only requirement is that the company is registered in Mainland China.
The Invitation letters issued by the Canton fair are optional, not mandatory.
However, you are still advised to pre-register and obtain the buyer’s badge in advance.
Do I need an Invitation Letter to visit Trade Shows in Hong Kong?
While Hong Kong S.A.R is part of China, it is not part of what is commonly referred to Mainland China.
Most nationalities can enter Hong Kong without obtaining a visa (Click here for a full list). As said, that is not the case for Mainland China.
If you for any reason cannot, or don’t wish to, obtain a visa for Mainland China – you may want to consider a trade fair in Hong Kong instead.
There are two big players on the Hong Kong trade show scene: Global Sources and HKTDC (Hong Kong Trade and Development Council).
Follow the links below to learn more about their trade shows:
• GlobalSources.com: Click here
• HKTDC: Click here