China Visa Application Information

Information, advice, and links about how to apply for a visa to China

Applying for a visa to China can be a huge hassle. Unless you really need to save money, do your application through a company that has a lot of experience with the application process—either a travel agency that specializes in travel to China or a company that specializes in visa applications. Doing so will save you a lot of time and potentially a ton of frustration. Based on its reputation, I began recommending China Visa Service Center to clients at my old travel agency whose applications we couldn’t handle, and I’ve gotten only positive feedback about its service. They have locations near Chinese consulates all over the U.S.

Please note: Since I live in the United States and have no experience with Chinese consulates outside the U.S., this page applies only to people applying in the U.S.

Application Process and Requirements

The first step in the application process is to determine where you should apply. That depends on which “consular district” you live in (or where the address you’re using to apply is located). See the map on this page (查看中文頁面).

Here’s a checklist of the things you need to apply for a tourist visa (“L visa”):

  1. Your passport (with at least six months of validity remaining and at least one blank visa page)
  2. One photo: 2-inch x 2-inch passport-style color photo
  3. A completed tourist visa application form (direct link to downloadable PDF with both English and Chinese—new form for September 2013 and after); for other visa types, visit the appropriate consulate link below
  4. If you’re not booking your travel through a travel agency (who should provide the documents you need), include proof of your travel arrangements in China, such as your round-trip air ticket itinerary and hotel voucher(s) or a letter of invitation.
  5. Depending on the type of visa being applied for and other factors, some applicants may need to provide additional documents.

For the most detailed, up-to date information about applying for a visa, refer to the following consulate webpages. If you live in a different consular district, refer to the website for that consulate, as different consulates sometimes have their own policies and practices. The consular district map page above has a link to each consulate or embassy.

Advice on How to Fill Out the Visa Application Form

Here are some answers to questions frequently asked by applicants when filling out the form:

When to apply: Generally, applications should be submitted 6 weeks to 2 months before your departure date.

Passport requirements: Make sure your passport has at least 6 months of validity remaining from the time of your application, and at least one blank visa page.

How to fill out the form: Fill out the form on a computer using the free Adobe Reader or another PDF program. The consulate may refuse handwritten applications.

In general, you need to fill out every applicable field of the visa form. Fields that are not applicable should be left blank.

“Local ID/citizenship number”: This refers to your driver’s license (or other state-issued ID).

Major purpose of visit: For tour participants or travelers planning a sightseeing trip, it’s best to choose only “tourism” as the major purpose of your visit.

Number of entries: For U.S. citizens, the application fee for visas is the same regardless of the number of entries or length of validity, so go ahead and choose “Multiple entries valid for 1 year from the date of issue.” The consulate may only grant a single-entry visa, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. (In recent years, the standard visa given to U.S. citizens is a 10-year, multiple-entry visa, which saves you the expense and trouble of applying again for later trips.)

Hotel information: If you are booking with a travel agency, it should provide address and phone number information for your hotels.

Retirees: Retirees should provide relevant information for their most recent employer.

Specific instructions: These official visa application instructions with information about specific fields on the form were provided by the Chinese consulate but are no longer available on the consulate website. Please note: These instructions refer to an outdated (2011) version of the application (and the numbering has changed), but they may still be useful.

If you have any questions about applying for a visa to China, feel free to contact me at brantley[at]thechinaguru[dot]org or use the contact form below. I’ll do my best to answer your question or point you in the right direction.

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