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, sometimes
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
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).