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
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, sometimes twice.
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 erican 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
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