The Chinese Visa is probably the most complicating and the most expensive visa in the entire world! Once you have come to realize that, you should then take a big breath and start working on the logistics of your trip.
For the purposes of the Visa Application process, you need to have a clear understanding of your travel dates, as well as your itinerary while in China. If you are planning to visit just one city, then your task becomes much easier. But if you are considering a more complex itinerary, then you’d better start working your mind around it…
First things first, your Visa Application should be supported by a set of pre-booked entry/exit tickets (could be air / train / bus / whatever kind of ticket), clearly stating your arrival and departure dates for China.
Then you have to present a travel plan, followed by all supporting documents; the most important of which being the hotel reservations for the entire duration of your stay. It comes without saying that it is better to make sure that the presented itinerary is as light as possible, otherwise you will have to support it with loads of documentation. Please also bear in mind that you are not bound to follow the itinerary you initially submitted for the visa application, you just need to present “something” and be able to prove it through your reservations. To make your life easier, try to make bookings that are fully refundable, as this will allow you to modify or cancel them later on.
As a general rule, if you plan to enter and exit China from the same city, it is wiser to make one single hotel reservation (fully refundable) for the entire duration of your stay. As soon as you have been granted your visa, you can then cancel / modify your reservations and move around China as you please. The Chinese authorities do not check if you have indeed fulfilled the travel itinerary you initially submitted or not.
BUT (yes, there is always a but…), do expect that for longer stays in just one city, you might be asked further questions as of how you are planning to spend all this time there. Be well prepared for that!
Alternatively, to this complicating and long process, if you are lucky enough to have a Chinese friend or acquaintance, try asking them for a personalized Invitation Letter. Unlike the Russian Visa Invitation Letters, it is not possible to buy one for China as a tourist. You can only do so if you are travelling for Business.
Once you are done with all the above, then make copies of all your bookings to be submitted along with your Visa Application Form.
Make sure that your passport has at least six months of remaining validity, and make a copy of the page with your personal information and photo.
If you have dual nationality, you will have to carry with you your second passport and a copy of the personal information page for that passport, as well.
Additionally, if you have visited China before with an expired passport, you will need to present a copy of that expired passport’s personal information page, as well as the previously issued Chinese Visa.
You will need a recently taken color photo, against a light background, and of the size of 48mm x 33mm. Please bear in mind that these specific dimensions are only requested by China, so make sure that your photographer reviews the photo requirements thoroughly as described through the official link for both the paper and the digital format of your pic (a digital copy of your photo needs to also be uploaded during the online application process).
This is the most important part, as the process has recently changed from a paper to an online Application Form, requiring way more detailed information about applicants compared to the previous one.
Everything starts and ends by entering the web site of the China Visa Application Center, here.
By selecting the country of your origin, you will be redirected to an exhaustive information page. You can start filling in your online Visa Application Form through the “Quick Access” option.
The form consists of 8 different Sections. Each section has to be fully and accurately completed in order to move to the next page.
I am sharing with you some tips on tricky points I have come across while filling in my Visa Application Form, and which I feel you will also find useful!
Section 1 – Personal Information: Probably the only straightforward section of the Visa Application Form!
Section 2 – Application Information: Here you will have to specify the Type of Visa you are applying for, as well as the duration of your stay. I highly recommend that you add some extra days to the count of the requested “Maximum duration of longest stay” days in China. This will safeguard you towards any unfortunate fine or penalty for overstaying your visa (due to flight delays or other unexpected events).
Section 3 – Work Information: In this section, you will have to complete your Work Background information (similarly to your professional CV), as well as your Annual Income! This somewhat guarantees that you can afford to travel to China! In case you are unemployed, expect to be asked for the source of your money for covering the expenses of such a trip. Please also be aware that you will have to start filling in this section by reporting the latest work experience first going backward.
Section 4 – Education: The same logic as in the previous section also applies here; you will have to provide your education background by reporting the latest education first going backward.
Section 5 – Family Information: Here apart from your own permanent address / mobile phone / email address, you will be additionally requested to provide detailed information about your spouse and children (if any), as well as your father and mother. Mandatory information: Date of (their) Birth, Occupation and Permanent Address.
Section 6 – Travel Information: Be ready to fill in your detailed itinerary by providing your arrival / departure details, as well as exhaustive hotel info for the entire duration of your stay. The Province is a mandatory element for all arrival / departure / accommodation points, but you can easily find it by looking at the given hotel address or by searching on Google Maps the address of your arrival / departure airport / train station / bus station vs the listed provinces on the Application Form. Moreover, in this section you will be asked to provide the details of your emergency contact, travel companion(s), as well as the person who will pay or sponsor your trip (could simply be yourself).
Section 7 – Travel Information in the Past: Here you will be asked for details on prior visits in China, all other countries you have visited in the past 5 years, and info on any other valid visas on your passport. My recommendation is to include only the countries whose stamps are found on your passport.
Section 8 – Other Information: A list of questions where you need to answer by Yes or No.
Section 9 – Signature & Declaration: Time to review all previous sections and confirm their correctness. Important Clarification: In case someone else is submitting the application on your behalf, you don’t need to specify this on the form itself. Do not get confused by the item number 9.2 where the details of the person who is filling in the form on behalf of the actual applicant are requested. This item refers to a completely different thing than the submission of the form (for example the cases where the parent is filling in the form on behalf of his/her small child).
Final Steps: Print the Completed Application Form and Sign it! Don’t forget to book an appointment for its submission, as this is the only way to be accepted at the Visa Application Center. The Appointment Calendar is available through the same page as the Online Visa Application Form (“Quick Access” option).
Visa Fees & Payment
The Visa Fees vary according to the requested number of entries, the speed of processing it (Regular vs Express), as well as the country of your origin.
Regular visas are processed within 4 days while Express visas within 3 days. Personally, I can hardly see the benefit of paying approximately 50€ extra for saving just one day, unless this day does make a big difference to your travel plan… For faster processing of your Visa you will have to request an exceptional treatment through the Chinese Embassy of your home country, but without any guarantee that your request will be indeed accepted.
You can find the most up-to-date Visa Fees and Application Center Service Fees here.
The Visa Centers accept both cash and credit cards, while the payment is done upon the submission of your Application Form.