Planning a visit to China? If so, you’ll need a visa. And unfortunately for Americans, that visa can be a little tricky (and a little pricey) to get.
Unlike many other asian countries, you cannot arrive at China’s border and apply for a visa on the spot. Applying for a visa can be a bit daunting and time consuming; therefore, make sure you apply for your visa at least one month before your travel plans.
Many people will go through visa agencies, such as China Travel Service or China Visa Service Center, because there is less chance of getting your application rejected. However this costs additional money, and the visa alone costs enough as an American, so I obtained my visa on my own without the help of an agency–and you can too.
Complete All Necessary Paperwork
Before running to the China Resources Building, make sure you have all the official applications filled out and the supporting documents gathered together. Here’s what you’ll need to bring:
- A Valid passport– at least 6 months before expiration and with at least two blank visa pages left.
- A completed China visa application Form A and Form B. You can fill these out at the visa office, but I recommend having it already completed to avoid long lines and wait times. Typing it up and printing it out is also the best option for those who have messy handwriting.
- One recent 48mm x 33mm colored passport photo.
- Your HKID.
- A photocopy of your passport information page and your HKID.
- A copy of your hotel reservations and/or flight confirmations.
Once all of that is ready you can head out to the China Visa Office, no appointment is necessary. But I do recommend getting their early because otherwise you’ll be stuck waiting all day.
Pro Tip: Try to avoid going on Mondays or Tuesdays because the wait is substantially longer on these days.
Finding the China Visa Office
The China Visa Office is located on the 7th floor of the China Resources Building in Wan Chai (on HK Island). The building itself is pretty easy to find since it is right next to the giant convention center. You’ll want to enter through the doors right at the corner of Fleming Rd. and Harbour Dr., otherwise they’ll try to guide you to a visa agency.
Address: Chinese Visa Office, 7th Floor, Lower Block, China Resources Building, 26 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Phone: (852) 3413-2424
Website can be found here
When: 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm on weekdays; closed weekends and public holidays
How to get there: MTR Wan Chai Station Exit A5. Walk along the overpass towards the Immigration Building. Outside Immigration there are stairs on the righthand side, take these down to street level. The China Resources Building will be right past the next intersection (Fleming Rd. and Harbour Dr.).
Pro Tip: If you cannot make it to the office during these times, it’s okay to have someone else apply for you (just make sure you trust them not to lose your passport…). You’ll need to note this on the bottom of application Form A (section 7).
Getting to the 7th Floor
There will most likely be some sort of a queue outside the main doors, or at least some sort of queue area. This was the longest part of my whole application process. I got there at 9:05 am right after opening. There were only maybe 5 people in front of me, but with the poor timing of only 2 elevators and the airport-style security, it took maybe 10 minutes just to get up to the proper floor.
And that’s right, I said airport-style security. Everyone must pass through a metal detector and have all their bags put through an x-ray scanner. There is a fairly long list of things that cannot be brought in, obviously knives and other potentially dangerous items, but also food and drinks. This slowed the line down even more as everyone was trying to empty out their packed lunches.
Once at the 7th floor, there was an attendant handing out the application forms. I was the only one (out of 7 people who came up the elevator with me) who had previously filled them out, so he glanced them over before handing me my number.
Besides the official forms, there are also copy machines and photo booths available incase you forget any part of your application.
And now for the worst part of any visa procedure– waiting.
Luckily since I had everything ready to go, my number was next in the queue. I waited all of 2 minutes before my number was called to the next available counter.
Unluckily, in those 2 minutes of waiting, I saw another American girl enraged because her application was refused. I prayed that I wouldn’t be called to that same counter– and with my luck, of course I was.
I nervously approached the counter and handed the officer all my documents. She must have looked through my passport 4 times as I stood there trying not to give off the impression that I was nervous. She handed me back half my documents and stated that she could not give me the visa I was applying for (6 month multiple entry).
I freaked out for a minute in my head, but then she stated that what she could give me a double entry visa. Phew.
Since I am American and have not yet been to China, the most I could get is a double entry. However once I use that up, I can then apply for the 6 month multiple entry. What sucks is that all visas are exactly the same price for Americans- $140 USD, so I doubt I’ll be paying that again anytime soon to get another visa.
After stamping all of my documents, she then handed me a blue slip of paper and it was over.
Do not lose this paper. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you do, you need to write a letter explaining why you lost it in order to try to get your passport back.
A standard visa application takes 4 working days (but this includes the day of submission). There are also options for 2-day and 3-day processing for an additional fee.
Make sure you bring the blue slip you were given and cash to pay for the visa ($1,100 HKD). Once you arrive, you do not need to wait in the queue downstairs. Simply show them your blue slip of paper and you’ll be ushered to the elevators.
In the same room where you applied for the visa, on the far left you’ll see the cashier counter. You’ll need to visit here first and pay for the visa. Once that’s completed you can go to the adjacent counter which is the actual collection point.
Pro Tip: Once you receive your passport do check and make sure everything is accurate. There is a policy of no returns once you’ve left the building.
***Please note that in the past year Hong Kong has changed their Chinese visa application policy. If you do not have HK resident status, you can no longer apply in Hong Kong and you must apply in your country of residence. So don’t plan on applying for your visa during your stay here before heading off to China***
Yay…success! After months of trying to figure out how to acquire a Chinese Visa (the office hours were impossible with my job), I finally have my visa ready to go. China here I come!
A special thanks again to Joann for helping to sponsor part of my visa costs. Stay tuned next week to hear about my first experience with Mainland China.
Have you applied for a Chinese Visa? How did your process compare?