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 the 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 impeding people in the process.
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