This post was last updated on August 13th, 2019 at 06:23 pm
Arranging a visa for China is a “wonderful” job. It is a nice introduction to the bureaucracy of the country. It is all quite time-consuming and quite a lot of work to apply for a China visa. And you have to do it well because without a visa you will definitely not be able to enter the country. We assume that you are looking for a tourist visa. We hope to explain this as well as possible on this page.
Visa for China
People from most countries need a visa to visit China. Most opt for a tourist visa. Unfortunately, it is now only possible to arrange your China visa at the Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC) or you can check with the Chinese embassy in your home country. You can apply for a visa in three different ways;
CVASC (Not for US residents)
If you live in or around one of the cities with a CVASC center, this is the easiest and quickest option to apply for your China visa. To check if there is a center near you please check your country on this page (you don’t have to submit the application in person; you can also send it by post).
Click your own country and select a city. Check the image below:
After clicking a city you can go to the Step by Step Guidance or Quick Access information page. From here you should be able to apply for your visa.
To apply for a visa at the CVASC you must have the following points ready:
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of the application.
- You have a fully completed visa form with a recent passport photo of 48 by 33 millimeters.
- You have a copy of your (e)ticket to China. You must be able to show that you are leaving the country again. You don’t necessarily have to fly back to your own country.
- You must be able to show one or more hotel reservations. The easiest way is to book this via the internet. A telephone number and address of the hotel is important. PAY ATTENTION; you don’t really have to stay here. So you can book a cheap hostel and cancel it.
- You have a travel schedule on which you state from day to day what you are going to do in China.
If you have everything that is above, you can apply for your visa. Keep in mind that you must ALWAYS make an appointment for this. They will not help you without an appointment. You can check the address for your local center here:
If you have made an appointment, it will then take 4 working days before you receive your visa.
You can also send the application form, including your passport, by registered mail. If you send your application by post, it will take 10 working days before you have your visa.
After you get your visa you have 90 days to enter China! So apply for your visa no earlier than 3 months before departure.
The costs of your China visa depend on the visa you apply for. The most common visa is a “Single Entry” visa. You can download an overview of all the costs for your local center. You can find it here:
Click “Visa Knowledge” on the left:
Click on “Payment methods and schedule of fees”:
Click on “Schedule of fees” to find an overview of all the visa costs for your center:
You can also choose to apply for your visa online at a specialized visa office. Please note that you should follow their rules for applying for a visa. There are too many online visa application agencies to list but the most important rules are usually:
- You must provide a copy of your passport, flight and hotel reservation. You must have a hotel reservation for your entire stay.
- The visa is valid for tourism. Business travelers are not eligible for the e-Visa.
- You can stay in China for a maximum of 21/30 days.
- You must apply for the visa at least 10 days in advance.
- The visa is only valid for one entry (single entry).
*Note that these are just general rules that come forward on many online visa application websites. Check carefully what you need to apply for your China visa!
Applying for a China Visa as a US resident
It’s not easy to apply for a China Visa as a US citizen but we will list all the steps that you need to take. This way, you will know exactly what to do and the application process will, hopefully, be a bit easier for you.
#1 Check your China Embassy/Consulate
You have to apply to the China embassy or consulate that serves your legal residence state. You can find this, for example, by checking your driver’s license. Below you can find a map with zones and the city where you have to apply for your China visa.
Go to this website and click on your state on the map. It will take you to the right website.
#2 Gather & fill out the required documents
First you will need to fill out the application form for your China visa. You will also need to gather the following documents:
- China Visa Application Form, which you can download here.
- U.S. Passport, valid for at least 6 months from the date at which you enter China. Your passport also requires at least two blank pages, one for the visa itself and one for the customs stamps.
- Proper Headshot Photo, which has to follow the general requirements of all passport photos: no head cover, no smile, nothing covering your eyes (you can wear regular glasses but not sunglasses). The background should be pure white. The dimensions of the photo should be 48 by 33 mm.
- Confirmation of your flight and accommodation (an itinerary). China requires you to present your travel itinerary, which includes confirmed hotels and flights. You are not actually required to maintain your itinerary the same after your visa has been issued. In China there is no one who will check your visa against your submitted itinerary. Just a small tip!
#3 Time to submit your China visa application
Unfortunately, you cannot send your application via mail. The Chinese embassies in the US won’t accept it so you are required to personally submit your application. After submitting you have to wait for about 2 to 7 days to pick up your passport and China visa. You can use online services if it is not convenient for you but keep in mind that the costs can rise a bit. An example of an online service is Passport Visas Express.
Apply for a visa abroad
According to the Chinese government, you need to apply for a China visa in your own country. But what if you are in Thailand and you want to go to China? It is not an option to first travel back to your country.
The only option is to apply for your visa at the Chinese Embassy in the country where you are (if there is one). In (Southeast) Asia, China has embassies in the following countries (check the complete list here);
- Chinese Embassy in Brunei
- Chinese Embassy in Cambodia
- Chinese Embassy in India
- Chinese Embassy in Indonesia
- Chinese Embassy in Japan
- Chinese Embassy in Laos
- Chinese Embassy in Malaysia
- Chinese Embassy in Maldives
- Chinese Embassy in Myanmar
- Chinese Embassy in Nepal
- Chinese Embassy in Singapore
- Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka
- Chinese Embassy in Thailand
- Chinese Embassy in the Philippines
- Chinese Embassy in Vietnam
If you are in none of these countries, the Chinese Visa office in Hong Kong or Macau is still an option.
The requirements for your visa will be the same, but the form may vary slightly, but they will probably point this out to you at the embassy.
Visa for Hong Kong
People from most countries who stay in Hong Kong for a maximum of 90 days do not need a visa. If you want to stay in Hong Kong for more than 90 days (which is not necessary for tourism) we advise you to contact the embassy.
Requirements for your Hong Kong Visa
For a visa for Hong Kong you must have arranged a few things. Here are some tips;
- A passport that is still valid for at least one month upon departure.
- When traveling to China, a passport that is valid for at least 6 months.
- Proof of a return flight, or flight to the next destination.
72/144 hours in China without a visa
China is a popular country when it comes to stopovers. If you fly to Asia, chances are that you will have a stop-over in China, especially if you are flying with a Chinese airline. The cheaper plane tickets have one disadvantage; the stop-over is often 12 hours or more. Normally you would dive into the city, but for many countries you need a visa. China has a solution for this.
72-hour visa-free transit policy
In China you have the 72-hour visa-free transit policy. This means that all passengers who arrive in China via an international flight may stay in China for a maximum of 72 hours (3 days) without a visa! This is possible in 18 cities in China.
This is to stimulate the short stay of international visitors. This visa-free policy applies in the following cities;
144-hour visa-free transit policy
For the following cities you can even stay 144 hours without a visa:
Apply for visa-free transit
To be eligible for a 72-hour or 144-hour visa-free transit arrangement, you must, of course, have a valid passport. Check the steps below to request it:
- STEP 1 ➜ Fill in an arrival/departure card on the flight;
- STEP 2 ➜ Apply for the 72/144-hour visa at the designated counter upon arrival at the airport;
- STEP 3 ➜ Leave the airport.
IMPORTANT – If you are staying in China for more than 24 hours, you must register your stay at the local police station within 24 hours of arrival. Hotels can do this for you.
- Make sure you are flying to your destination via China. You must be able to hand over a ticket to your final destination (not China):
- You can stay in one Chinese city. So if you have 2 stopovers in 2 different cities, you are not eligible for this visa-free policy;
- Your visa-free transit starts at 00:00 on the day after arrival. Suppose you land on March 18 at 6:35 p.m. then the 72 (or 144) hours will only start at 00:01 a.m. on March 19. So you can stay a little longer than 72/144 hours;
Pay attention! We are not responsible for your visa application at a party mentioned above. Unfortunately, we cannot help you with questions about your application. If you have any questions about your visa application, ask the relevant party.