Getting your tourist visa to travel to China

So you have finally decided to fulfil your lifelong dream and take a trip to China. After a first rush of excitement during which you have pictured yourself among locals at the Dragon Boat Festival and tasting genuine Chinese street food, fear takes over at the thought of all the mandatory procedures and requirements to get a visa for international travel. Surprisingly enough, and regardless of your country of origin, obtaining a tourist visa for China in a matter of days is easy for the great majority of travellers.

There are some exceptions, as is the case with passengers in transit who will spend less than 72 hours in China and will not be required to hold a visa; you may check if the nationality of your passport is included in this agreement here. Also, if you are travelling for business purposes and will, for instance, attend an event at the SNIEC (Shanghai New International Expo Centre), it is highly likely that you will need a business visa (the F-type). Those enrolling in educational courses in China will have to apply for a student visa (X) in collaboration with their school.

But if all you want to do is roam new places and get lost in beautiful Shenzhen bordering the Pearl River, say hello to the Giant Panda in Chengdu, be amazed by the Terracota Warriors in Xi’an, stay in a luxury hotel in Guangzhou or visit the Forbidden City and take tours to the Great Wall while in the capital city, Beijing, a China tourist visa is just perfect for you.

Where do I start?

The first thing you should know is that the visa to travel to China as a tourist is the L-visa type. In order for it to be processed, you must appear in person at the Chinese Consulate or Embassy in your hometown, fill out the requested forms and submit the mandatory documentation (detailed later on in this post), make the payment and collect it when it is ready.

How long does it take for my China tourist visa to be processed?

Those applying for a tourist visa to visit China normally obtain it within 4 working days, a time period that can be reduced if we pay for an express service or an emergency one (subject to the approval of an officer in charge at the Chinese embassy).

How much does a tourist visa for China cost?

By way of example, travellers from Schengen countries currently pay 126,55 euros for a regular visa, to which we must add shipping fees if they choose to receive their visa by post or have it delivered by a courier instead of picking it up at the consulate. US nationals pay 140 US dollars. At some embassies and consulates only debit and credit cards may be accepted, so we strongly advise that you confirm in advance whether you can use cash to pay for your tourist visa for China at your local office.

For how long can I stay in China as a tourist?

The duration of your permit and the number of entries allowed will be clearly indicated on your issued tourist visa. The validity of the visa starts at the time of issuance and its expiration date is the last day you can spend in the country legally. Some China visas are multiple entry-ones allowing you to visit several times over the course of longer periods. Take into account that tourist visas to travel in China are rarely extended.

Which is the required documentation to apply for a tourist visa for China?

Among other additional documents that may be requested, travellers intending to visit China as tourists need to submit an original passport with blank visa pages that will be valid for at least six months more after the trip (it will be returned upon collecting your visa), a filled out application form along with a photo ID that complies with their regulations, proof of legal residence in your country, a photocopy of previously obtained China tourist visas if that is the case, and supporting documents such as airplane tickets, hotel reservations and booked tours or, alternatively, travel planning details and dates.