China Visa – The Definitive Guide

China Visa

If you are a fan of Chinese culture or would love to achieve that bucket list trip to the Great Wall, then it is about time you go to China.  Almost all nationalities are required to secure a China Visa in order to go there.

What You Need To Know

Various China visas are available aside from the usual and most common business and tourist visas. They require special visas for study, employment, journalism, flight crew and family visits.

US Citizens who are granted a China visa usually also receives a 10 year valid multiple entry visa. This means that even when your passport expires and you renew it, you just have to bring the old one with your visa and you’re free to go in and out of the country. (You just have to make sure that none of the information will be different among the two passports).

Where To Apply

China has multiple consulates in the US. This means that you have to apply in a consulate that is assigned to your state. There are two ways to apply for a visa, apply in person or hire a visa services company.  The Chinese embassy and consulate do not accept applications via mail. Below is the list of consulates and their corresponding jurisdictions.

  • Washington DC Embassy: Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming
  • Chicago Consulate: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin
  • Houston Consulate: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Puerto Rico
  • Los Angeles Consulate: Arizona, Southern California, Hawaii, New Mexico
  • New York City Consulate: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont
  • San Francisco Consulate: Alaska, Northern California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington

Documents Needed

For business or tourist visa, the following documents must be submitted:

  • Completed visa application. Must be completed via an online application and printed, as handwritten applications are not accepted. If a question does not apply to you, write “not applicable” or “none” in the space and do not leave anything blank. Hong Kong or Taiwan must not be mentioned.
  • Valid passport. Must be valid after six months past the end of your trip to China, must have two blank visa pages and must be signed.
  • One photograph with the following specifications:
    • Measure 33mm x 48mm.
    • Have a head size of 28-33mm from top of head to bottom of chin.
    • Have a plain white background.
    • Your ears and eyebrows must be visible.
    • Do not wear jewelry, headbands or hair accessories, hats, or white clothing.  Wearing glasses is not recommended.
  • Flight details. Must contain your full name and date of arrival and departure from mainland China.
  • Other supporting documents. You must submit a copy of your hotel arrangements for the whole duration of your stay or a China tour operator invitation. People who are traveling for business must present a letter from their company or an invitation from a company in China.

Plans for visiting Hong Kong?

China VisaHong Kong may be part of the People’s Republic of China but they have their own government and laws regarding visas. US citizens do not need a visa to enter Hong Kong. If you plan to visit mainland China then Hong Kong and go back to China again, you must have a multiple entry visa.

Visa-free layovers in China

If you have a confirmed ticket to another country but you have a long layover at China, you are free to visit the following cities visa-free (including Hong Kong). US citizens are allowed to stay for up to 72 hours in these cities.

  • Beijing
  • Changsha
  • Chengdu
  • Chongqing
  • Dalian
  • Guangzhou
  • Guilin
  • Hangzhou
  • Harbin
  • Kunming
  • Nanjing
  • Qingdao
  • Shenyang
  • Tianjin
  • Wuhan
  • Xiamen
  • Xian

Some cities may even allow up to 144 hours of stay if you have longer layovers:

  • Shanghai
  • Guangdong
  • Jiangshu
  • Zheijian

You will only be allowed to stay in these cities if you have a third country destination. For example, you have a layover in Xiamen on your way from New York to Mongolia, instead of applying for a visa, you will be issued a transit permit at the airport. However, if you plan on going to one of the cities in China from the US and back, you are required to secure a visa.