Entry Requirements Mainland China Visas

All visitors to mainland China must acquire a visa in advance. In general, visas are not granted at the border. Visitors to mainland China must have a valid passport with at least 6 months' validity and two blank pages remaining (you may get away with just one blank page). Visa applications typically take 3 to 5 working days to process, although this can be sped up with the payment of extra fees to as little as 1 day if you apply in person. "L" (tourist) visas are valid for between 1 and 3 months. Usually 1 month is granted unless you request more, which you may or may not get according to events in China at the time. Double-entry tourist visas are also available.

At home you should apply to your nearest consulate, although it's possible to pick up Chinese visas in other countries while on an extended trip. It varies, but typically your visit must begin within 90 days of the date of issue. Note that although postal addresses are given below, some consulates (including all those in the U.S. and Canada) will only accept applications in person, and applications by post or courier must go through an agent, with further fees to be paid. Telephone numbers are given, but many systems are automated, and getting a human to speak to can be next to impossible; faxes and e-mail rarely get a reply, and websites are often out of date.

Applying for a visa requires completion of an application form that can be downloaded from many consular websites or acquired by mail. Visas are valid for the whole country, although some small areas require an extra permit from the local police. Temporary restrictions may also be placed, sometimes for years at a time, on areas where there is unrest, and a further permit may be required. This is currently the case with Tibet where, until recently, travelers were required to form groups before entering the region, and to pay a huge price for a tour (but they were not required to actually join it on arrival). For details of Tibet permits, see chapter 13. In general, do not mention Tibet or Xinjiang on your visa application, or it may be turned down flat.

Some consulates indicate that sight of an airline ticket or itinerary is required, or that you give proof of sufficient funds, or that you must be traveling with a group, while they happily carry on business with individuals who have none of this supporting documentation. Such statements do provide a face-saving excuse for refusing a visa should there be unrest or political difficulties, or should Tibet or Xlnjiang appear on the application.

One passport photograph is required, as well as one for any child traveling on a parent's passport.

The visa fees quoted below by country are the current rates for nationals of that country, and can change at any time. U.S. citizens applying for a double-entry visa in the U.K. for instance, are charged more than British citizens, but other nationals are charged less. Regulations may also vary: U.S. citizens applying in Australia must submit two forms and two photos; everyone else just one of each. In addition to the visa fees quoted, there may be supplementary fees for postage, and higher fees can often be paid for speedier service. Payment must always be in cash or by money order.

Once you're inside China, single-entry tourist visas only can usually be extended once for a maximum of 30 days at the Aliens Entry-Exit department of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in most towns and cities. U.S. citizens pay ¥125 ($16), U.K. citizens ¥160 (£12), Canadians ¥165 (C$28), and Australians ¥100 (A$18).

Extensions within China now typically take 5 working days to process, although you may sometimes be able to cajole offices into faster service.

Consulates in the United States

Single-entry visas are $50; double-entry $75. Visit www.china-embassy. org, which has links to all U.S. consular sites and a downloadable application form. Applications must be delivered and collected by hand, or sent via a visa agency. In Washington, D.C. (for residents of Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming): Room 110, 2201 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007 (& 202/ 338-6688; fax 202/588-9760; faxback 202/265-9809; [email protected] atlantic.net). In Chicago (for Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin): 100 W. Erie St., Chicago, IL 60610 (& 312/803-0095; fax 312/8030110). In Houston (for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas): 3417 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77066 (& 713/524-2304; fax 713/5248466; automated FAQ 713/5244311; [email protected]); however, its temporary location is at 3400 Montrose Blvd., 7th floor. In Los Angeles (for Arizona, Southern California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and

Pacific Islands): 443 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (& 213/8078006; fax 213/380-1961). In New York (for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont): 520 12th Ave., New York, NY 10036 (& 212/330-7409; fax 212/5020245). In San Francisco (for Alaska, Northern California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington): 1450 Laguna St., San Francisco, CA 94115 (& 415/674-2940; fax 415/5634861).

Consulates in Canada

Single-entry visas are C$50; double-entry C$75. Visit www.china embassycanada.org for an application form. Applications must be delivered and collected by hand, or sent via a visa agency. Ottawa (for residents of the Ottawa region, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island): 515 St. Patrick St., Ottawa K1N 5H3 (& 613/7899586; fax 613/789-1414). Toronto (for Ontario and Manitoba): 240 St. George St., Toronto M5R 2P4 (& 416/964-7260; fax 416/3246468). Vancouver (for British Columbia and Yukon Territory): 288-1338 W. Broadway, Vancouver (& 604/ 734-0704; fax 604/734-0311). Calgary (for Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Northwest Territory): 1011 6th Ave. SW, Suite 100, T2P 0W1 (& 403/ 537-1247; fax 403/264-6656). Consulates in the United Kingdom Single-entry visas are £30; double-entry £45. There's a supplementary charge of £20 for each package dealt with by mail. Visit www.chinese-embassy.org.uk for an application. London: 31 Portland Place, London, W1B 1QD (& 0207/631-1430; 2-4pm phone service; 24-hr. information at premium rate & 0900/1880808). Manchester: Denison House,

49 Denison Rd., Rusholme, Manchester, M14 5RX (& 0161/224-8672). Edinburgh: 55 Corstorphine Rd., Edinburgh, EH 12 5QJ (& 0131/ 337-3220; fax 0131/337-1790).

Consulates in Australia

Single-entry visas are A$30; double-entry A$45. Add A$10 per package dealt with by mail or courier, and a pre-paid return envelope. Canberra: 15 Coronation Dr., Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (& 02/6273-4783 or 02/62734780, ext. 218 or 258; fax 02/62739615; www.chinaembassy.org.au). Sydney: 539 Elizabeth St., Surrey Hills, NSW 2010 (& 02/9699-2216; fax 02/9699-8258; www.china consulatesyd.org).

Consulates in New Zealand

Single-entry visas are NZ$60; double-entry NZ$90. Add NZ$15 per package dealt with by mail or courier, and a pre-paid return envelope. Wellington: 2-6 Glenmore St., P.O. Box 17257, Karori (& 04/472-1382, ext. 600; fax 04/4749632; www.china embassy.org.nz). Auckland (for Auckland-area residents only): 588 Great South Rd., Greelane; postal address P.O. Box 17123, Greelane, Auckland (& 09/525-1588, ext. 710 or 707; fax 09/525-0733; www.chinaconsulate. org.nz).

Consulates Elsewhere

A complete list of all Chinese embassies and consulates can be found at the Chinese foreign ministry's website: www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng (or various mirror sites around the world). Click on "Missions Overseas."

Buying Visas in Countries Bordering China

Note that the Chinese Consulate in Kathmandu, Nepal, will not sell visas to individual travelers wanting to enter Tibet overland, or they may stamp the visa to prohibit overland entry via the Friendship Highway. The consulate in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, will usually refuse visas to those not holding a fax or telex from a Chinese state-registered travel agency, or they will stamp the visa to prohibit overland entry via the Torugart Pass. Obtaining visas at the consulate in Almaty can also sometimes be difficult for nonresidents of Kazakhstan.

Buying Visas in Hong Kong

The easiest place to apply for a mainland visa is Hong Kong, where there are several China visa options. Single-entry tourist "L" visas valid for 3 months are easily obtainable, as is the (unextendable) double-entry version. Multiple-entry "F" visas are also easy to obtain via visa agents and without the letter of invitation required to obtain them at home. Single-entry visas bought through HK agents typically cost HK$120 to HK$150 ($15-$19), multiple-entry "F" visas around HK$450 ($56). Offices located just a few minutes' walk from the main tourist areas charge less still. See chapter 10, "Hong Kong & Macau," for recommendations.

Entering the Mainland from Hong Kong & Macau

It is possible for all but British citizens to buy a permit at the Lo Wu border crossing from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, valid for 72 hours of travel in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone only. According to the Guangzhou PSB, tourist visas can be purchased on arrival at Guangzhou East station by direct express railway from Hong Kong, but this has not been tested. It is possible to buy a 3-month "L" visa or 6-month "F" visa from a branch of China Travel Service on the mainland side of the crossing from Macau to Zhuhai. See chapter 10 for more details.

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