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Getting a Business Visa: China, EU, Japan, and More

Getting a Business Visa: China, EU, Japan, and More

Getting a business visa to work abroad can be a bit complicated. Each country has its own rules, forms, and fees, and failing to comply can result in big penalties including fines, deportation, or even a lifetime ban!

Before seeking an international business visa, it’s important to understand exactly what a business visa is, when you need one, and how to get it. Fortunately, most countries are open about their business visa requirements. Once you know where you’re going to be doing business and for how long, you can start to figure out how to acquire the documentation you need.


Table of Contents


 

What is a Business Visa?

A business visa is documentation that allows for an individual or business to perform tasks in another country that are related to their business, but do not generate any direct income.

A business visa is not the same as a work permit or employment visa. Generating sales, performing paid labor, or any kind of paid training are generally not going to be covered under a business visa. The purpose of the business visa is to allow you to conduct work-related activities without becoming part of that country’s labor market.

When is Business Visa Required?

Some examples of activities that could require a business visa are:

  • Attending a conference
  • Attending meetings with other business representatives
  • Participating in an exhibition
  • Volunteer work
  • Exploring a foreign market
  • Unpaid training

Even if you are traveling for one of these “business visa” purposes, it’s still possible that you may not need a business visa. If you’re traveling between certain countries with visa exemptions for a short period of time, you may be totally exempt from visa requirements.

Exemptions will vary from country to country. Make sure to check the visa requirements for your destination! You should be able to find the information on the country’s immigration website.

Business Visa Requirements

If you determine that you do need a business visa for your trip, the exact requirements for your visa will vary depending on your destination.

No matter where you’re headed, here are some things you will likely have to provide:

Business Visa Application Form

Each country will have its own application form that you’ll need to submit. Some countries allow for visas on arrival, meaning you’ll complete your paperwork when you arrive in your destination country, while others require that you submit your application electronically or through the mail weeks or months in advance.

Make sure to allow for plenty of time between your application submission and your dates of travel! It could take anywhere from a few days up to a couple months to get your approved visa.

Your destination country will have its own timeline posted online for you to use as a reference. Whatever you do, make sure to bring copies of any required documentation with you! You do not want to be stuck at customs searching for lost forms.

Valid Passport

Nearly every country requires a valid passport in order to get a business visa. Some countries will only want to see a copy, while others may require that you show the original. 

Your passport may need to have 1 or 2 blank pages, so double check before you assume your passport is eligible. Some countries may also require that your passport be valid for a certain number of months before and/or after the trip.

For example, a business visa in China requires that your passport be valid for at least 6 months after the completion of your trip, and it must have more than one blank page.

Make sure to check these requirements well in advance, so you have time to get a new passport if necessary!

Business Visa Application Fee

Application fees vary depending on the destination country. A “short-stay” visa in France (which can serve the same purpose as a business visa) will cost €60, or about $68. The application fee for a business visa in the United States is more than double that, or about $160. Most business visa applications will cost less than $200. However, it is important to remember that the application fee does not include any fees for passport renewals or visa photos.

Passport-sized Photos and Identification

In order to issue the visa, you will likely have to provide 1 or 2 passport-sized photos.

In addition, you may need to provide:

  • Copy of driver’s license
  • Copy of round-trip ticket
  • Copy of hotel reservation paperwork
  • Documentation reflecting your business purpose in the destination country. Often, this is a letter on your U.S.-based company’s letterhead, asserting that you are an employee, and disclosing the purpose/duration of your trip.
  • Vaccination records

As you can see, a lot of documentation can be required to get your business visa! In order to establish exactly what the requirements are for your destination country, check the country’s immigration website.

In-person Interviews

Some countries will require an in-person interview at their embassy or consulate before they will issue your business visa. They will ask you questions regarding the purpose of your travel, what you do for work, questions about your family, and who you are traveling with. They may also ask some questions about your finances in order to confirm that you have the resources for your trip.

When it comes to your business visa, you can’t afford to make mistakes. A delay could mean missing a conference, training, or that vital meeting. Make sure to be extra careful when reviewing the requirements of your destination country to ensure that you won’t be dealing with any delays.

Country-By-Country Breakdown

If you have to travel internationally for business, you may be confused about how to get a business visa, or if you even need one at all. Some countries offer business visas, but variations in terminology, paperwork, and regulations make it difficult to ensure compliance.

So, we’re breaking down what you need to know to get a business visa as a traveler to the most commonly-visited business destinations in the world.

The good news is that if you’re a citizen of the U.S. or European Union, there are a lot of countries you can visit for business purposes without jumping through too many hoops. We’ll let you know where you’re exempt from getting a visa, where they’re required, and where you don’t want to get caught without! 

 

If you’re traveling to England

Visa-exempt Business Travel to England

Business travelers from the U.S. can conduct business in England without a visa for up to 6 months. Approved business activities include:

To enter the country, visitors must provide:

  • Current passport with one blank page, valid for your whole stay in the United Kingdom
  • The dates you’re planning to travel to the UK
  • Details of where you’ll be staying during your visit
  • How much you think your trip will cost
  • Your current home address and how long you’ve lived there
  • Your parents’ names and dates of birth
  • How much you earn in a year

Visa-required Business Travel to England

For citizens of countries that are not visa-exempt, England has a standard visitor visa that allows travel for leisure or business. You can easily determine if you need a visitor visa by filling out their online form. If you do need to apply for a visa, you can apply online up to three months before your date of travel.

Long-term business travel to England

If you’d like to spend more than 6 months in England, there are limited options available. You may be able to get a “temporary worker” visa for volunteer work, training, research, or fellowship. You may also be eligible for a “representative of an overseas business” visa for 3 to 5 years.

Remember — Due to Brexit, England is in a state of flux. So, these rules could change! Check https://www.gov.uk/ to verify your eligibility for a standard visitor visa.

 

If you’re traveling to Germany

Visa-exempt Business Travel to Germany

Germany is part of the Schengen Agreement, which is a treaty among 26 European countries allowing free movement between them. U.S. business travelers to the Schengen area can generally stay for up to 90 days without acquiring a special visa. 

To enter the country, visa-exempt visitors must provide:

  • A current passport with two blank pages, valid for at least three months after your planned departure date from Germany
  • Proof of sufficient funds — this could include bank statements, traveler’s checks, pay stubs, or proof of employment
  • A return airline ticket

Germany is very strict about on-time departures from the Schengen area. If you overstay your 90-day limit, you could be required to undergo a formal visa application for your next visit, or even be banned permanently. So, don’t risk it!

Visa-required Business Travel

Non-U.S. citizens should check here to see if they’ll need to apply for a visa. If you live in a country that requires a Schengen visa for business travel to the area, here’s what you’ll need: 

  • A visa application form
  • Two passport photos
  • A current passport, valid for three months after you anticipate leaving the Schengen area
  • Round trip airline tickets
  • Travel insurance
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • For a full list, visit the Schengen Visa Info website

You’ll need to file your paperwork with the German consulate, pay a €60 fee, and attend an in-person interview.

Long-term business travel to Germany

For a stay of longer than 90 days, business visitors will need to apply for a temporary residence permit. This type of permit is generally valid for up to one year. 

U.S. citizens can enter Germany without a visa and apply for their residence permit at their local German immigration office. If you intend to stay longer than 90 days, make sure to check in with the local registration office (Standesamt – Einwohnermeldeamt) within one week of your arrival.

To apply for a longer stay, you must have: 

  • A complete application form
  • A current passport with two blank pages
  • Two passport photos
  • Proof that you’ve registered your German address with the local authorities
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay
  • Proof of health coverage
  • Visa application fee

 

If you’re traveling to Japan

Visa-exempt Business Travel to Japan

Like Germany, Japan does not require a special visa for U.S. citizens if you’re traveling for business purposes for less than 90 days. 

To enter the country, visitors must provide:

  • Valid passport with one blank page
  • Return/thru airline ticket

Visa-required Business Travel to Japan

Business travelers from other countries can determine if they need a visa to enter Japan by checking this list of visa-exempt countries. If they do need a business visa, they will need to provide: 

  • A current passport with two blank pages, valid for six additional months 
  • A completed visa application form
  • A passport photo and a certified copy of their birth certificate
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay
  • Schedule and travel plans for the trip
  • A letter from the inviting company in Japan, and a letter from the applicant’s company

Documents must be delivered in person to the consulate for your region

Long-term Business Travel to Japan

If you wish to visit Japan for more than 90 days for business purposes, you will need a visa for a long-term stay. Unlike Germany, you generally cannot get a long-term visa from within Japan. You will need to obtain this document before you enter the country.

To apply for a long-term visa, you must have:

  • Valid passport
  • Visa application form
  • One photograph
  • Certificate of Eligibility. This document must be obtained by someone in Japan who is inviting you to residency. They will apply for it with their Regional Immigration Bureau, and they must send it to you before you apply at the embassy/consulate.

 

If you’re traveling to France

Visa-exempt Business Travel to France

France, like Germany, is part of the Schengen area. U.S. citizens can spend up to 90 days in France on business without a special visa. To confirm your visa exemption, use this visa wizard.

To enter the country, visitors must provide:

  • A current passport with one blank page, valid for at least 90 days after your anticipated departure date from France
  • Proof of accommodation during your stay
  • Proof of sufficient financial means (at least €65 per day, or €120 per day if you do not have proof of accommodations)
  • A return ticket (or proof of sufficient financial means to acquire one)

Non-exempt Business Travel to France

Business travelers who wish to visit France from non-exempt countries will require a Schengen visa. See the section titled “Non-exempt Business Travel to Germany” for a list of required documentation. Paperwork will have to be filed with the embassy in France. 

Long-term Business Travel to France

For business travel of 90 days up to 1 year, you’ll need a long-stay visa. These are issued for purposes of completing a “one-off” task in France for your employer or participating in certain self-employed activities. See the complete list here.  

For a long-stay visa, start with the visa wizard. From there, you can fill out an online application form and set an appointment for an in-person interview. You’ll need to bring:

  • Application form, dated and signed
  • A current passport with two blank pages, valid for at least three months after your anticipated departure date from France
  • France-Visas receipt (which you’ll receive after completing your online application)
  • Passport photograph
  • Proof of health insurance for your full stay
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay

You’ll need to get your long-stay visa in your home country before you travel to France!

 

If you’re traveling to China

All visitors to China must have a visa in order to enter the country. For business travel, you’ll need an M Visa. This will permit you to participate in commercial and trade activities for your business.

This visa is available for single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry over 10 years. Each visit will be limited to 30 to 60 days. The cost to obtain an M Visa is $140, regardless of the number of entries.

Business travelers will have to obtain their visas in their home country before traveling to China. To do so, they’ll need to submit all required documentation to the Chinese embassy/consulate that serves their state or country in person, or through an agent. 

Expect to provide:

  • Current original passport with two blank passport pages, valid for at least six additional months.  (Must be valid for 12 months if you’re requesting a 10-year, multiple entry visa.) If you have a valid visa for China in another passport, make sure to include that as well. 
  • Visa application form
  • 1 passport photo
  • Invitation letter from a Chinese entity

Processing times vary depending on the consulate. U.S. times are approximately 4 business days, and the approved visa must be picked up in person by you or your agent.

Once you have your visa, you’re not quite done. When you arrive in China, you must register with the local police within 24 hours. Your hotel will register you when you check-in. But if you’re staying with a friend or business associate, make sure that you register with local police to avoid fines or even deportation. 

And one more note — foreigners visiting China must always carry their passports and visas with them. 

The U.S. Department of State provides additional information regarding travel to China that American visitors should read before their trip!

 

If you’re traveling to Switzerland

Visa-exempt Business Travel to Switzerland

As another country in the Schengen area, Switzerland does not require U.S. business travelers to get a visa for a stay of under 90 days. And like Germany, they are serious about that 90 days. Don’t overstay! 

To enter the country, visitors must provide:

  • A current passport with one blank page, valid for at least six months after your anticipated date of departure from the Schengen area
  • A return airline ticket
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay

Non-exempt Business Travel to Switzerland

Visitors from other countries can use the Swiss online visa system to determine if they need a Schengen visa for business activity in Switzerland. If they do, they may be able to apply online. Residents of some countries are not allowed to apply online and must do so with an external visa provider.

Long-term Business Travel to Switzerland

For business travel of over 90 days, visitors will need to acquire a National Visa D. This takes about 6 weeks to process and will cost $68. You can get a single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry visa.

To apply for Visa D, you’ll need to provide: 

  • Three copies of your application form to the Swiss embassy in your area — Click here for a list of locations
  • A current passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay

Your visa will allow you to enter Switzerland, but it won’t allow you to stay. Within 14 days of your arrival, you’ll need to register at the local Residents Registration Office. Then, you’ll apply for a residence permit from the local cantonal (regional) migration office. Refer to this list to find the cantonal migration authority in your area. 

The cantonal migration office can issue you permit L — a short term residence permit. You’ll receive a biometric ID card, which will allow you to stay in Switzerland for up to 1 year. 

One more note — if you reside in Switzerland for more than 3 months, you’ll have to obtain health insurance with a Swiss insurance company! 

 

If you’re traveling to the Netherlands

Visa-exempt Business Travel to the Netherlands

American business travelers headed to the Netherlands can also attend meetings, conferences, and conduct negotiations for up to 90 days without a visa. 

To enter the country, visitors must provide: 

  • A current passport with two blank pages, valid for at least three months after your anticipated date of departure from the Schengen area
  • A return airline ticket
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay (at least €34 per day)
  • Proof of travel medical insurance
  • You may need to provide proof of your business purpose in the Netherlands and sufficient reason to return to your home country (such as work or family ties)

Non-exempt Business Travel to the Netherlands

Business travelers who wish to visit the Netherlands from non-exempt countries will require a Schengen visa. See the section titled “Non-exempt Business Travel to Germany” for a list of required documentation. Paperwork will have to be filed with the embassy in the Netherlands. 

Long-term Business Travel to the Netherlands

For a stay of over 90 days, business visitors to the Netherlands will need a residence permit. The country provides work and business residence permits for very specific purposes such as: 

Application procedures and costs will vary based on the type of permit you require. If your business purpose does not fall into one of these categories, contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

 

If you’re traveling to Ireland

Visa-exempt Business Travel to Ireland

Short business travel (less than 90 days) to Ireland does not require a visa for Americans. 

To enter the country, visitors must provide: 

  • A current passport with two blank pages, valid for the duration of your stay in Ireland
  • A return airline ticket
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay
  • Proof of a valid reason for entering the country such as a business invitation or itinerary

Non-exempt Business Travel to Ireland

For visitors from countries that are not visa-exempt, business travelers will need to get a short stay “C” business visa. This will allow them to stay in Ireland for up to 90 days. 

Start here to apply for a business visa online. You’ll need to mail your passport in for processing, and pay €60 for a single-entry visa, or €100 for a multiple-entry visa. Wait time is about 8 weeks, so make sure to start your application early!

Long-term Business Travel to Ireland

There is no long-stay option in Ireland for business purposes. You will have to apply for a residence permit, but the categories are generally limited to work, study, volunteering, and retirement. Contact the Irish Immigration Office to discuss your circumstances.

 

If you’re traveling to Brazil

Visa-exempt Business Travel to Brazil

Brazil does not require that U.S. citizens get a visa for up to 90 days of business travel. Visitors can also extend their stay for another 90 days if necessary. 

To enter the country, visitors must provide: 

  • A current passport with one blank page, valid on date of entry
  • Onward or return airline tickets
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • All documents required for the next destination

Non-exempt Business Travel to Brazil

For business travelers from countries that are not visa-exempt, you will need to obtain your visa in your country of residence before entering Brazil.

Applicants will complete a general visa application, and the type of visa you receive will be determined by the consular authority. Begin the visa application process here. After the online application is complete, you will need to bring your application receipt and original passport to the Brazilian consulate in your area.

 


About the Author: Sherwood Stranieri