If you have ever wanted to visit China, now would be a pretty good time to make that happen. Many airlines have increased capacity and added new routes to/from several Chinese cities and airfares have never been more reasonable to this incredible country. And it’s not just getting to China that has gotten easier, the Chinese government has actually made it slightly less cumbersome to leave the airport and enter the country as well. With its transit without a visa waiver program and now 10 year, multiple-entry tourist visas, getting a Chinese tourist visa has never been easier and you can finally cross off hiking the Great Wall from your bucket list.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The process for getting a Chinese tourist visa is still a pain in the butt. If you are only transiting through China for less than 72 hours, you may qualify for a transit without a visa waiver. I’ll have more information about that at the end of this post so keep reading.
But let’s say you don’t qualify for the transit without a visa waiver or want to visit several cities on your trip, you will need to get a Chinese tourist visa. Your first step is to locate the Chinese consulate office that has jurisdiction over your place of residence. A list of the consulate offices in the United States can be found here.
Make sure to confirm the consulate office’s hours and location before going there. The visa application office is not always located at the actual consulate. This is the case with the Los Angeles visa application office. It’s actually located in a separate building down the street from the consulate office.
For you Southern California folks, the Los Angeles visa application office is only open from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Monday through Friday. That doesn’t mean you have to be done with your transaction by 2:00 PM. You just have to be in the office by that time. They will not let anyone into the office after 2:00 PM but will stay open to process everyone that has arrived.
The visas are approved by the local offices and you must apply with the consulate office in your area. Download and complete the “Visa Application Form of People’s Republic of China.” You can find the link here. If you are visiting as a tourist, you will be applying for a “L” visa. Complete and print out the visa application.
You must have made your hotel and air reservations already. If not, you must do this prior to applying for your visa. I know. I know. It’s a gamble and you might not get approved for your Chinese tourist visa but they do require this before approving your application. Once you have your confirmed hotel and air reservations, print them out also.
Go get a passport/visa size photo of your beautiful mug.
And I’m already assuming you have a passport right? If not, then you definitely need that also.
Once you have all these documents, you must apply in person to your local consulate office. Mailed applications will not be accepted. A friend, family member, travel agent or employee of a private visa application service can show up on your behalf. If you live in a state without a local consulate office, you may hire one of those visa application services. There are plenty of them out there. However, an in-person interview may be requested prior to the approval of your application. They do not take appointments. You just show up, take a number and wait in the office until your number is called. It’s like the DMV. If you are lucky enough to have someone else wait in line for you, they must have a copy of your driver’s license (to prove that you live within their jurisdiction). Otherwise, they will reject your application.
When your number is called, you present your passport, photo, application and proof of confirmed travel and hotel reservation to the consulate officer. He/she will review your application and give you a receipt for your passport. Yes, you will have to leave your passport there with them and the application process takes about a week. The receipt will have the pick up date for your application. And don’t lose your receipt. You will need that to get your passport back.
Note: the 10 year visas are not automatic! You must ask for and be approved for the 10 year visa. And the visa application forms have not been updated to reflect the 10 year option yet so you can just leave that box blank and ask for the 10 year, Chinese tourist visa.
On your return visit to the consulate, proceed to the pickup window, pay the $140.00 fee and pick up your passport. The price of the 10 year visa is the same as a one year visa. Your Chinese tourist visa will be a sticker on one of the blank pages. VERIFY the information on the visa and compare it to your passport before you leave. This is very important!
And that’s it. More information from the Los Angeles consulate office can be found here if you need it.
But wait! You might qualify for a visa waiver if you meet certain criteria. Starting January 1, 2014, you can travel to and visit the following cities in China without a visa for up to 72 hours (3 days):
And as of January 2016, you can visit the following cities in China without a visa for up to 144 hours (6 days):
More information on how to visit China without a visa can be found here.
I hope this information helps. Let me know if you guys have any questions or need any help.
The other related posts in this series include: