Your passport must be valid for at
least six months after the expiry date of your visa and you’ll need at
least one entire blank page in your passport for the visa. You may be
required to show proof of hotel reservations and onward travel from
China, as well as a bank statement showing you have $100 in your account
for every day you plan to spend in China.
A standard 30-day single-entry
visa can be issued from most Chinese embassies abroad in three to five
working days. Express visas cost twice the usual fee. In some countries
(eg the UK and the US) the visa service has been outsourced from the
Chinese embassy to a Chinese Visa Application Service Centre, which
levies an extra administration fee. In the case of the UK, a
single-entry visa costs £30, but the standard administration charge
levied by the centre is a further £36.
A standard 30-day visa is
activated on the date you enter China, and must be used within three
months of the date of issue. 60-day and 90-day tourist visas are
reasonably easy to obtain in your home country but difficult elsewhere.
To stay longer, you can extend your visa in China at least once,
Visa applications require a
completed application form (available at the embassy or downloaded from
its website) and at least one photo (normally 51mm x 51mm). You normally
pay for your visa when you collect it. A visa mailed to you will take up
to three weeks. In the US and Canada, mailed visa applications have to
go via a visa agent, at extra cost. In the US, many people use the China
Visa Service Center, which offers prompt service. The procedure takes
around 10 to 14 days.
Hong Kong is a good place to
pick up a China visa. However, at the time of writing only Hong Kong
residents were able to obtain them direct from the Visa Office of the
People’s Republic of China. Single-entry visas processed here cost
HK$200, double-entry visas HK$300, while six-month/one-year
multiple-entry visas are HK$500. But China Travel Service (CTS) and many
travel agencies in Hong Kong can get you a visa in two to three working
days. Expect to pay HK$650 for a single-entry visa and HK$750 for a
double-entry. Both American and UK passport holders must pay
considerably more for their visas.
Be aware that political events
can suddenly make visas more difficult to procure or renew.
Chinese law requires foreign
visitors to carry their passport with them at all times; it is the most
basic travel document and all hotels (and internet cafes) will insist on
seeing it. You also need it to buy train tickets or to get into some
tourist sights, particularly those which are free.
It’s a good idea to bring an
ID card with your photo in case you lose your passport. Even better,
make photocopies, or take digital photos of your passport – your embassy
may need these before issuing a new one. You should also report the loss
to the local Public Security Bureau (PSB).