If I thought the Russian visa application was difficult, it’s nothing compared to the Chinese visa application. Not only do you need a few more documents, but you also need to provide proof of accommodation and ongoing travel (meaning you need to book ahead), or a letter of invitation which is not easy to get.
It’s hard to find accurate information online, especially regards to cost and time scale, so I thought it would help if I wrote out a step-by-step guide as I went to keep on top of things! This information is valid as of August 2018 and applies to UK citizens only.
How to get your Chinese visa
- Spend hours looking at incredible palaces, great walls and cutie-pie pandas to get you hyped up to visit such an incredibly diverse country.
- Visit the UK government Foreign Travel Advice website for up to date information on entry requirements.
- That will link you to the Chinese Visa Application Service Centres website, where you can find your closest centre and begin your online application.
- The Visa for China website is the best one I’ve had to deal with yet, it’s full of information and useful links, and they even include their own step-by-step guide, which you will need to read through.
- First of all, you need to decide how you want to submit the application. You can submit it in person (great if you live nearby), have a third party submit it for you (likely if you’re booking your trip through a tour agency), or send it by post (slower and more expensive, but ideal if you live far away). Different rules apply to each option and it can get very confusing.
- You also need to decide how you want to get your passport back. You can choose to pick it up (if you have the receipt), have someone pick it up for you (if they have the receipt) or have it posted back to you (as long as you supply a traceable, pre-paid, self-addressed envelope with your application). Again, different rules apply to each option and it can get very confusing.
- If you’re going to the Visa Application Centre you need to make an appointment as soon as possible. I didn’t do this soon enough and now I have to take four 9 hour buses to get from Cornwall to Edinburgh (via London for my Mongolian visa application) because they were the ones with an available appointment at such short notice. It’s an expensive mistake, but it means I won’t lose time in Russia.
- Working out how much I had to pay was confusing.
The Chinese Embassy website breaks it down into single entry (£30), double entry (£45), multiple entries for 6 months (£60) or multiple entries for 1 year (£90), plus either £34 for the regular service, or £57 for the express service and you can choose these options on the application form.
- Turns out, you can ignore all of that because the correct prices are on the Visa for China website, regular service (£151), express service (£178) and postal service (£175), regardless of the number of entries and are valid for two years.
- The other thing I didn’t find out until I got the embassy is that you cannot use express service if you’re having it posted back to you. You can use express service only if you or someone you know can pick up your passport in person. The regular service only takes a day longer, but they cannot guarantee the speed of the postal service, so pay for the fastest option when getting your pre-paid envelope if you’re on a tight schedule and you can’t pick it up!
- Download the application form. It can’t be handwritten so fill it out on the computer and then print it to sign and date. It asks for pretty basic information but requires a list of cities your visiting, with addresses, so I booked basic accommodation that I can cancel. This part can just be a rough guess if you’re not sure.
- Download and sign the Declaration form. This is the only other thing it says I need on the Edinburgh sight, but the London site asked for a signed copy of the Terms & Conditions too, so I’m doing both just to be on the safe side.
- Don’t forget a photocopy of your passport, along with the original, and one recent colour photo.
- When you arrive at the Chinese visa centre you need to show them a printed copy of your appointment information and they’ll give you a number which they’ll call out when their ready for you. I arrived super early and actually got mine done before my appointment time because they were so quiet, but it soon got busy.
- If you have all the correct documents then it’s pretty straightforward. They have computers there if you need to amend your application form, and even a passport photo booth if you didn’t get any beforehand.
- You can pay the fee with cash or debit card, collect your receipt and then you’re free to go!
Update 22/08/2018: I handed in my application today after a minor breakdown and a few tears. Finding out it could take up to 10 working days (when I fly out in 7 working days) was a shock, and she couldn’t understand why I couldn’t pick it up in person, from Edinburgh, when I live in Cornwall. Fingers crossed!
Update 27/08/2018: Oh god, I forgot it was a bank holiday… that’s one less ‘working day’ for my visa to get back to me…
Update 29/08/2018: My passport and visa arrived today! I’m actually shocked it came back so quickly, I was sure I would have to change my flights, but now it’s all systems go for the Trans Mongolian!
- photocopy of passport
- one passport photo
- application form
- declaration form
- terms and conditions form
- proof of accommodation
- proof of flights/trains in and out of China
- appointment information
- traceable, pre-paid, self-addressed envelope (only if they’re posting it to you)
- payment authorization form (only if you’re sending it by post)
- Regular service – £151 (around four working days)
- Express service – £178 (around three working days)
- Postal service – £175 (around ten working days, express not available)