Are you heading to China in the near future? Do you need a visa to get into the country? Today I’m sharing all the info you need to know about getting a Chinese visa before booking your first trip!
Whenever we plan a trip, Paul takes over the important must-do’s, like booking airfare, hotels, arranging transportation and researching other requirements, like visas. I handle the fun stuff, like itinerary planning! I’d like to thank Paul for doing me a major solid and putting together his research, so I could share it with all of you!
So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING A CHINESE VISA
* Disclaimer * This post is based on information that was accurate when we booked our trip, as U.S. Citizens. ALWAYS research specific requirements for your own travel. This is not an official or legal post, it’s simply a guide to help you with the process.
DO I NEED A VISA FOR CHINA?
Short answer, it depends.
While geographically in China, Hong Kong essentially operates as an independent country. In fact, it was a British Colony up until 1997. As a direct result of this, it has its own legal system. So, if you are ONLY going to Hong Kong for 3 months or less then NO, you do not need a visa.
If you are going to Macau for less than 30 days you do not need a visa. But if your plans include mainland China, no matter the length of time, the answer is YES. So, if you intend to visit Hong Kong AND somewhere else within mainland China, you will need a visa.
WHAT TYPE OF VISA DO I NEED?
To start the process, visit the Chinese Embassy site to apply. This site is super helpful in guiding you in selecting the correct visa for your visit. To begin, you’ll need to figure out what type of visa you need based upon your travel plans. For us, this was a L Visa for Tourists.
For the L Visa, we were required to submit a passport that was valid for longer than 6 months from our date of travel and it needed to have blank pages. A passport photo, taken within the last 6 months was also needed, along with our round-trip airline ticket and our hotel reservations. Yes, you need to book your ticket and reserve your hotel prior to submitting your visa application. We had a lot of anxiety over booking airfare not knowing what we would do if we got denied after spending all of that money. Unfortunately, that’s the requirement, so to ease a bit of stress, we booked refundable hotel reservations, just in case. Luckily, everything was approved!
DO I NEED A SINGLE, DOUBLE OR MULTIPLE ENTRY VISA?
There are a few different types of Chinese visas available. You can choose between a single entry visa, a double entry visa, or a multi-entry visa, which is valid for up to 10 years. All of the options cost the same, so we went ahead and got the 10 year visa. The cost for the visa at the time we applied was $140. If you get a single or double entry, the visa is only valid for 3 months from the time it is issued so make sure not to get the visa too early.
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR VISA APPLICATION
Our biggest obstacle was how to submit the visa. The Chinese Embassy does not allow the visa to be submitted online or by fax. This was the most stressful part of the application process because the closest Chinese Embassy for us is in Los Angeles. Was it worth it schedule an appointment, drive to LA, drop off the visa, and then either wait in LA to pick it up or drive back home & come back? No.
Thankfully Paul has a hockey buddy who travels frequently to China for work, and he recommended using a company called Visa Express to submit our visa. I cannot recommend them enough. It was an easy step by step process to submit all the necessary paperwork through them. They thoroughly check your application to ensure everything is filled out properly. They then submit it in person on your behalf.
HOW MUCH DOES A CHINESE VISA COST?
The visa applications cost was $140 per person, Visa Express charged an $89 service fee per person, and we paid the $29 overnight shipping each way. We paid by credit card online, which added an additional 3.5% service fee. In the end, it was absolutely worth it knowing they were submitting a proper application. The whole process was seamless and we received our visas back in about 2 weeks.
This post is not sponsored by Visa Express, we just had a really great experience with them, so I highly recommend using them if you don’t live somewhere with an embassy. We also used them for our Russian Visas (which required much more work). I’ll be sharing more about Russian Visas later this year.
Planning a trip to a country that requires a visa on top of a passport can feel intimidating, but don’t let that deter you! It’s quite easy, just make sure you follow all of the steps and double-check the accuracy on your documents. You’ll be on your way to China in no time! Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing guides to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Have you been to China? Have you ever been to a country that required a visa? Share below!