Applying for a Chinese visa - basic overview


At first glance, applying for a visa to China may appear to be a slightly daunting task. The visa section of the Embassy website can be difficult to navigate, especially with the multitude of different regulations listed for each type of visa. Hopefully this short introduction will answer the most common questions for first time visitors to China.

The first question is of course, “what type of visa do I need?” For most people, the answer is an “L Type” or tourist visa. This is the visa for people who are coming to China for sightseeing, visiting friends or family, or any other non-professional purpose. If you are coming to China for business or study, you need a different type of visa, and chances are that the company or school you are working with will provide you with more detailed information about the visa you will need.

The application requirements for a tourist visa are quite simple: your passport, a photocopy of the information page of your passport, a recent 2x2 photograph (color or black and white), a completed visa application form, and the visa fee, which varies depending on your nationality and the type of visa you are applying for. The form is the same for all types of visas, simply indicate which type of visa you are applying for (an L Visa). 

It should be noted that if you are applying for a visa outside of your home country, you will require form B instead of A.

The visa application has a space for listing return flight information and hotel reservation details. Whether or not you need to provide this information depends on where you are applying for the visa. The embassies and consulates in some countries do not require it, while others do. The best approach is to give as much information as you have access to at the time. If you are part of a package tour, a copy of your chopped (stamped) tour agreement should suffice.

For visitors to China who also wish to travel to Tibet, a special permit is required in addition to your Chinese visa. Travel to Tibet is similar to travel around other parts of China in that your one Chinese tourist visa covers entrance to any and all provinces. However, in order to avoid frustration by potential changes to Tibet travel policies, the easiest and most hassle-free approach is to apply for your China "L" visa and do not mention plans to visit Tibet. Once you are in China, a local travel agency can help you navigate the requirements and permits necessary to enter Tibet.

Hopefully, this short introduction will get you started in the process of applying for a China tourist visa and answers some of the most common questions that keep impede people in the process.

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China Travel Documents

  • Starting from 2013, passport holders from 45 countries can be issued a visa-free stay of up to 72 hours while in transit via Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. You only need to to have your passport and the flight tickets.

    During your 72 hours stay you are not allowed to leave the transit city. 

  • Entries for China visa vary from single, double and multiple. A single entry is printed as 01(壹), while double as 02(贰), and multiple as M(多). Entries means the number of entry you can use it to enter China mainland during its validity period. 

  • Basic requirements are your original passport with at least 6 months validity and 2 blank pages, one legibly, completely and truly filled Application Form, one recent passport photo affixed on the application form.

  • The regular processing time is 4 working days. You can ask for the express service, which will reduce the time to 2 to 3 days. An additional fee of 20 USD will be charged per visa.

  • Yes, the application can be presented by someone else, such as your friends, relatives, or travel agency, but the form should be completed and signed by yourself. Someone else can also pick up it on your behalf as long as he can show the "Pick Up Form". 

  • Please apply only 1 or 2 months (at least 2 weeks) before your planned date for visit. Do not apply for it too early since if you don’t use it, the visa will expire after 90 days starting from the day you obtained it.

  • No. It is very difficult for a traveler to get a Visa On Arrival at the entry ports. We strongly recommend you to apply for your visa in your home country before departure.

  • You should apply from Chinese Embassies or Consulates in your home country. If you are currently residing or traveling in other countries, you can also apply at the local Chinese Embassy or Consulate. 

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