In this post, we walk you through the process of applying for a Chinese visa through a visa agency.
First Things First: Get Help from a Visa Agency
First, we recommend using an agency rather than dealing directly with a Chinese consulate, even though it costs extra money. Here’s why:
- The process is faster and easier, and you can get quick help and answers to your questions.
- The agency will check your application and alert you to problems.
- Less stress. If you have a question or worry, you can check anonymously through the agencies online chat.
- You can make the application online if you want.
- You can get “Form Fill Service” or “VIP Concierge Service” if you feel you need more assistance.
Recommendations for Your Visa Agency
Here are our recommendations, based on either personal experience or online research. Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that we will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
- US citizens: Travel Visa Pro. We chose them on a recommendation from a friend, and were very happy we did. (Also can be used by non-US citizens living in the US.)
- Canada, UK, German or Indonesian citizens: VisaHQ. Travel Visa Pro doesn’t serve citizens of these countries, unless they are residents of the US. VisaHQ gets good reviews.
- For Australian citizens, unfortunately, the only agency we know of is the Chinese Visa Application Service Center, at visaforchina.org. This agency is owned by CITS, which is a Chinese state-run entity. The only other choice we know of is to go directly to your nearest Chinese consulate. Please let us know if there is a better option we don’t know about.
- Other citizens: Inquire with us at our contact form.
How to Apply for your Chinese Visa
And here are the written details of what to do, using the Travel Visa Pro process as a sample:
- Plan to submit your Chinese visa application packet 1-3 months before you travel.
- Go to Travel Visa Pro online and get a list of the requirements for your area, which vary by location. There are great live call or chat options if you have questions. For example, these are the requirements for travelers seeking a tourist visa from Northern California in the US:
- Start gathering your required documents. Note the following:
- Your passport should be good for at least 6 months after the date you plan to arrive in China, with one completely blank page for the visa.
- We recommend printing a copy of the Chinese visa application out as a working draft, even if you plan to apply online. You can complete the real one at the end of this process.
- Make sure your passport-style photo is recent. We have experienced the agency rejecting a photo because it was the same one as on the passport, which was a couple of years old.
- Your roundtrip ticket can be an e-ticket or travel agent’s reservation. Note: If you book a flight all the way to Lhasa, you will have trouble when applying for the Chinese visa. Better to book a roundtrip from your home to a destination in mainland China, like Xining, Beijing, Chengdu or Xi’an, then book a separate flight or train to Lhasa. When you apply for the visa, you will show only the roundtrip flight to the city in mainland China.
- As recently as June 2016, your proof of hotel reservations could be just the first few nights of the trip. You can ask on the help chat with Travel Visa Pro if that is still valid.
- There are special requirements for children under 18 years of age, and for applicants born in China, Hong-Kong or Taiwan. See Travel Visa Pro site.
- Draft a simple, rough itinerary for your time in China, for the section of the Chinese visa application that asks for your “itinerary in China.” Take care not to mention Tibet (even areas outside the TAR) as part of your itinerary. Here’s a sample itinerary for a 22 day trip to the Kham region outside the TAR, taken from a completed visa application:
The actual trip started in Xi’an, continued with a flight to Xining, then overland through Kham to Jyekundo and with a flight back to Xining then Xi’an. It is allowed to change your itinerary after you are on the ground in China so it’s okay to keep it rough and simple.
After you have gathered all your docs, complete the final Chinese visa application. For the section on the application that asks for “Intended number of entries,” please note that all US citizens may apply for 10 year multiple entry tourist visas. The visa application form has not yet been updated, so you can write “Ten Year Multiple Entry” in the “Other” field.
Submit your docs to Travel Visa Pro. We recommend bringing the documents in person into the office nearest you if you can, where the agents will check your application immediately and let you know if there are any issues that need to be addressed. Hand carrying your passport keeps it safe in your own hands as much as possible, and saves you a little money with shipping the papers.