This guide is primarily aimed at UK Citizens and Europeans living in the UK who are traveling to China and need to obtain a Visa. If, however, you are of a different nationality in the UK, this guide will still be able to help as the process is very similar.
This guide is also for those applying for a tourist visa, which the Chinese Visa Application Center refers to this as n "L" type Visa.
Having personally gone through the process, I thought I'd share the steps and the process on how to obtain a Visa for China to help others and perhaps make the process a little easier and somewhat digestible.
The process and the length of this post may appear daunting, but it is a relatively straight forward process. It just requires a bit of admin and prep work.
Methods of getting a Visa
As I'm aware, there are two methods of obtaining Visas for China.
- Direct. This is applying directly to the Chinese Visa Application Service Center and I believe the cheapest option and also what I did myself.
- Agency. Having done some research, there are travel or visa agencies where they can help in obtaining visas on your behalf. This might be useful for large groups. I would suggest having a Google to see if any agencies in your local area can help and check relevant reviews to verify their authenticity.
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing (Aug 2019), the default Visa for UK and EU citizens costs are:
- UK citizens pay £151. This is the standard service and entitles UK Citizens multiple entries and valid for 2 years.
- EU citizens pay £94. This is the standard service and entitles EU Citizens a single entry and valid for 90 days.
Costs vary based on citizenship, level of services such as standard, express and the duration of stay and number of required entries into China.
The above prices are subject to change, so be sure to check Chinese Visa Application Service Center for prices directly. But at least this gives you an indication of price.
I have attached a pricing schedule which is directly from the Chinese Visa Application Service Center All prices are in GBP sterling. In the table below where it says "Application Service Fees," this is inclusive. For instance, for a UK citizen, with a standard service, it's just £151. The £66 is inclusive. When I first read it, I thought it was £151 + 66. This is not the case.
Here is the direct link of the schedule of fees
How long is the Visa valid for?
For UK Citizens (at the time of writing which is 2019), the Visa is valid for 2 years and multiple entries. For Europeans, it's valid for 90 days and single entry. If you are European and require multiple entries, you can specify this in the application process and they should be able to accommodate. It will, of course, come at an extra cost.
How soon do I need to apply?
According to the Chinese Visa Application Service Center, they say recommend one month in advance is appropriate, but not earlier than three months in advance. The danger of applying too early is that the visa may expire by the time you arrive in China.
How to apply directly
The Chinese Visa Application Service Center is where you can apply directly for a Visa for China. The website and UX may look a little dated, but it's the real deal, I assure you.
Although you are providing all your information online, the online application form is actually a digital method of obtaining your information in a structured and conformed way. The result is that you have to print out the application form and hand this into the center. I believe the old style method would be printing out an application form and completing it by hand.
I will assume that as the reader, your purpose of visiting China is for tourist reasons. In which case, the type of visit they refer to is an "L" type Visa, which is a tourist visa.
The online application process is suited for 18-70 year olds. Some pre-requisites need to be highlighted before getting started.
What you will need:
- A passport with at least 6 months' validity.
- A recent passport photo including a digital version, 48mm X 33mm.
- Flight tickets booked, with a booking reference or email confirmation.
- Hotel or accommodation booked or an address of where you will be staying.
Passport photo requirements
A note about passport photos. The passport photo needs to be in digital format as it needs to be uploaded via the online application form. It also needs to have a white background. A light grey or off-white background won't work. I tried. Many times. When getting a passport photo, be sure to specify that it's for a China Visa or specify you need a white background and a digital copy. Snappy snaps, for instance, are aware of this and can accommodate.
Photo requirements for China Visa
Completing the online application and making an appointment
This is an overall summary of the entire application process. It can be broken down into two stages: 1)completing the application form online and 2) visiting the service center to submit your application and making payment.
- Step 1 : Complete the application form
- Step 2: Print and sign
- Step 3: Print supporting documents
- Step 4: Book an appointment
- Step 5: Visit the Chinese Visa Application Service Center
Step 1: Complete the application form
The application form is rather involved so just be prepared it's not going to be a simple form with a few personal details and general questions. It is rather thorough.
First, visit the Chinese Visa Application Service Center and you will be presented with their landing page.
Select the desired country and office. From the image below, UK has four offices, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Belfast.
You will then be presented with their home page.
If you select the "Step by Step Guidance" it provides useful information and terms and conditions about what is involved in applying for a Visa. Be sure to have a read of this. It's a few pages, so it's long. But worth the read.
To start the process of an online application, select "Quick Access".
You should see something like this:
For new applications and existing ones where you want to resume your application select "New Application Form". The "Manage Application" is for only when you have submitted your application form.
You will be presented and asked to agree to some terms and conditions. Then you will be presented with this:
At the time of writing, and from the screenshot above, there are 10 sections in the online application form. I won't go over each of the sections individually, but it covers the following areas:
- Personal information. This is standard stuff such as name, address, date of birth. This is also where you will need to submit your digital passport photo. The online application will perform some checks to ensure the photo is valid and has indeed a white background.
- Work information. If you have a CV and Resume handy, this will be helpful. It goes to the extent that it will ask you for your current and past employer information, address, contact number, name of supervisor, address and telephone number.
- Family information. It requires information about parents/guardians, their date of birth and occupation. This is also where you specify any children you may have and emergency contact details.
- Travel information. As highlighted in the pre-requisites, you will need to supply flight and accommodation information.
- Tavel to China in the past and other countries. If you visited China in the past, you will need to supply previous Visa information and dates. Also, bring copies of these just in case. It also requires a list of countries you have visited in the past 5 years. Just countries, no specific dates are needed.
The online application form also provides the ability to pause and resume where you left off, so you don't have to complete it all in one shot. Just be sure to make a note the reference number of your application form when you save your progress so you will need this to resume your application form.
Step 2: Print and sign
Once you have completed the application form, you will be asked to download a copy and print a copy. Printing in black and white is fine. Just be sure to sign the first page and page 8 where asks for your signature and date.
Step 3: Print supporting documents
Now it's time to print out supporting documents such as:
- Flight information.
- Accommodation information.
- Photocopy of passport.
- Any copies of past China Visas.
Step 4: Book an appointment
In the UK, the Chinese Visa Application Service Center has four offices in the UK, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Belfast.
To make an appointment with the appropriate office, visit the Chinese Visa Application Service Center and select "Quick Access".
You will be presented with the Quick Access page. Select "Appointment"
You will then be able to provide your application details from step 2 and proceed to select an appointment date and time slot.
Once confirmed, print the appointment reservation form as well as you will need this on the day of the appointment.
Step 5: Visit the Chinese Visa Application Service Center
On the day of the visit, they advise you to attend 10 mins before your appointment time. Be sure to bring all your documents as well as your passport, appointment reservation form and report to the reception desk.
They will issue you a ticket number where you will be served.
When seen, they will inspect your documents and ask you any questions they may have about your application. This is standard. Your fingerprints will also be taken. Again, this is all standard. They will then confirm the price of the visa and you can pay there and then. Accepted payments are debit cards or cash. You will also then be provided an option of collecting your passport or have it posted.
For collections in person, they will give you a date of when you can collect and also a receipt. Keep this receipt as you will need this to collect your passport.
For postal collection, I'll be honest here, I don't know the process here, but I believe I have read that you may need to supply your own stamped address envelope.
I hope this guide has been useful and provides an insight into how to obtain a Visa for China.
China is a wonderful place and worth seeing. It has many historic sights and although you need a Visa and obtaining it can be rather daunting, it's not too overly complex and just requires a bit of admin work.