Traveling to China can be quite the adventure, whether you’re considering working there for a year, visiting on a tourist visa, or taking advantage of the new 144-hour transit visa for a long stopover in Shanghai. Though the country still maintains an air of mystery making it popular among tourists looking for an alternative to Europe, there’s no denying mass production and other industries have turned it into a beacon for foreign investors.
So what’s the best way to ascertain the cost of a Chinese visa and make your trip possible? First, let’s look at some of the options available:
1. Tourist Visa (L)
The most basic Chinese visa cost for tourists is $140 due to reciprocity – the United States charges similar fees for visiting Chinese nationals. On a single-entry tourist visa, the longest you can stay is three months. On a dual or multiple entry visa, it’s limited two. Unfortunately, with the exception of the transit visa below, all Chinese visa application fees must be paid at a consulate or embassy prior to departure.
2. Transit Visa (G)
Most Chinese cities offer 24- and 72- transit visas, but as of January 2016, the municipalities of Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang started offering arrival visas valid for up to a week for those transiting from one country to another, known as the 144-hour transit visa. Although this isn’t necessarily the best for tourism, if your travel plans meet certain criteria, it can make traveling through China cheaper and much less painful.
The cost of this Chinese visa? Free!
3. Work Visa (Z)
Though you might think the cost of a Chinese visa would be greater for those traveling on business or planning to stay in the country than for tourists, it remains the same: $140. The reason for this is the Chinese work visa isn’t so much an authorization to work, but rather to enter the country legally and apply for a Temporary Residence Permit, valid for up to five years. Your Z visa is only valid for 30 days.
That covers Chinese visa prices, but are there any additional costs when applying? If you’re considering a tourist visa, you’ll need:
1. A visa application form with a passport-sized photo. Unless you have a steady supply of photographs taken within the last three months, you’ll have to pay for a new one.
2. Your passport, valid for at least six months and with two blank pages. A copy is also recommended. If you discover your passport has less than six months’ validity and your flight departs soon, you’ll probably have to pay for expedited processing of your passport renewal, up to $170. Please remember your Chinese visa is passport number specific, and can’t be transferred if you need to apply for a new book.
3. Proof of legal stay. For tourists, this means confirmed hotel reservations; saying you will be “playing things by ear” on your trip to China is not recommended when you apply.
4. Copies of previous Chinese visas. This also includes Chinese passports if you happen to be a naturalized US citizen from China.
5. Documents showing the itinerary including a confirmed inbound and outboard airline reservation.
6. In some cases, you’ll be asked to provide an invitation letter with your visa application. Tourists generally don’t need these, nor are they required to register with an agency prior to their arrival in China. However, for business and work visa applications, this invitation letter is essential.
So, is the cost of a Chinese visa too much for you? Citizens of other countries only have to pay $30 to Americans’ $140, and that is subject to change. The Chinese visa price has not changed radically over the years, nor is it expected to drop.
In regards to the processing time, the Chinese visa application fee varies. Those with travel planned more than a month away can easily apply for Regular Service at $140. Travelers with only a few weeks are charged $160 for Express Service, ensuring their visa will be processed in 2-3 days. Chinese embassies and consulates even offer same-day Rush Service for $170.
While traveling through China, be aware of Special Administrative Regions sometimes requiring additional documentation and fees. US Citizens may enter Hong Kong for up to 30 days with a visa on arrival (no charge), but those wanting to travel to Tibet must obtain a valid Chinese visa in addition to a Tibet Tourism Bureau permit and an Alien Travel permit.
Are you ready to fly into Beijing?