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How to Apply a China Visa
According to the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC, Foreign and US citizens need a visa to visit mainland China. This rule applies regardless if you’re entering straight to the mainland or you’re coming from Hongkong or Macau.
China is one of the most strict countries when it comes to issuing a visa. But do you know that
in-transit passengers can enter China for 72 to 144 hours even without a visa? You can get a visa-free entry for 72 hours if you’re transiting in Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, etc.
However, you are only allowed to stay within the borders of the city you landed and you should only arrive on a plane and not by other modes of transportation. Transiting in the following provinces/cities, on the other hand, allows you 144 hours of visa-free entry to China: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, and Qinhuangdao.
Depending on the purpose of your trip, there are 12 types of visa that you can apply on.
If you’re traveling to China mainly for tourism or for visiting friends or relatives, you should apply for the L Visa.
Types of L Visa
You can apply for a single entry or multiple entry tourist visa but the most popular ones are the Single Entry and Double Entry. A Single Entry Visa allows the visa holder to enter China ONCE and can stay for at most 30 days.
The Double Entry Visa allows the visa holder to enter China TWICE and can stay for at most 30 days each entry. There is also a special type of tourist visa which is valid for 10 years. To be able to qualify for this visa, the applicant’s passport must be valid for more than 12 months (1 year).
Requirements when applying for a Chinese tourist L visa:
Original signed passport with at least six months of remaining validity and blank visa pages, and a copy of the passport's data page and the photo page if it is separate.
One completed Visa Application Form with a photo on glossy photo paper glued onto the form (your photo must meet the requirements).
Proof of legal stay or residence status (applicable to non-U.S. citizens)
You must provide the original and photocopy of your valid certificates or visa of stay, residence, employment or student status, or other valid certificates of legal staying provided by the relevant authorities of the country where you are currently staying.
Photocopy of previous Chinese passports or previous Chinese visas (applicable to foreign citizens who were Chinese citizens and have obtained foreign citizenship)
If you are applying for a Chinese visa for the first time, you should provide your previous Chinese passport held and a photocopy of its data page.
If you have obtained Chinese visas before and want to apply for a Chinese visa with a renewed foreign passport that does not contain any Chinese visa, you should present the photocopy of the previous passport's data page and the photo page if it is separate, as well as the previous Chinese visa page. (If your name on the current passport differs from that on the previous one, you must provide an official document of name change.)
If the applicant is a child born in the U. S. to a Chinese parent, the visa requirements are different. Please click to see detailed info.
Documents showing the itinerary including air ticket booking record (round trip) and proof of a hotel reservation, etc. or an invitation letter issued by a relevant entity or individual in China. The invitation letter should contain:
Information on the applicant (full name, gender, date of birth, etc.)
Information on the planned visit (arrival and departure dates, place(s) to be visited, etc.)
Information on the inviting entity or individual (name, contact telephone number, address, official stamp, signature of the legal representative or the inviting individual)
In accordance with a 2014 China-U.S. visa arrangement, U.S. citizens may be eligible for 10-year multiple entry visa. The remaining validity of the U.S. passport must be over 12 months.
The applicant should guarantee that all information provided in the application is true and correct. Any false, misleading or incomplete information may result in denial of the visa or refusal of entry into China.
The Visa Notification Letter and the official media letter may be in the form of fax, photocopy or computer printout. An applicant may be required to submit an original invitation, provide other supporting documents, or schedule an interview with the consular officer.
The consular officer will make decisions on whether or not to grant a visa and allowed validity, duration of stay and number of entries based on individual application.
Where to apply for a Chinese visa:
The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China is in Washington D.C. However, you can also find the Office of the Consulate General in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston. It is important to know that each of these offices has its own jurisdiction. To avoid delays and complication, you can check which office your area of residence belongs to:
Chinese Embassy in Washington:
Washington DC, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota,Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming.
Consulate in New York:
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont.
Consulate in Chicago:
Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin,
Consulate in San Francisco:
Alaska, Northern California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington.
Consulate in Los Angeles:
Arizona, Southern California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Pacific Islands
Consulate in Houston:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas.
Aside from applying through the Chinese Consulates, you can also get your visa through travel agencies. If you're in a tour, you can get a group visa arrange by the tour agent. I got mine in Hongkong with my Filipino passport when I join a guided tour to Macau, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.
Things to remember when getting a group visa:
When traveling on a group visa, you must stay with your group at all times during the duration of your trip. This includes entering and exiting China altogether. The group visa is also only a single entry visa and it will be withdrawn upon.
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