World ? Asia ? China

China: Entry Requirements

Passports

For information on how to get a passport, go to "Passports" in the "Fast Facts" section -- the websites listed provide downloadable passport applications as well as the current fees for processing passport applications. For an up-to-date, country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the "Foreign Entry Requirement" Web page of the U. S. State Department at http://travel.state.gov.

Visas

Mainland China -- All visitors to mainland China must acquire a visa in advance. Visas are generally not granted at the border. Visitors to mainland China must have a valid passport with at least 6 months' validity and two blank pages remaining. Visa applications typically take 3 to 5 working days to process, although this can be sped up to as little as 1 day if you apply in person and pay a fee. "L" (tourist) visas are valid for between 1 and 3 months. Usually 1 month is granted unless you request more, which you may or may not get according to events in China at the time. Double-entry tourist visas are also available.

You should apply to your nearest consulate. It varies, but typically your visit must begin within 90 days of the date of issue. Note that although postal addresses are given below, some consulates (including all those in the U.S. and Canada) will only accept applications in person, and applications by post or courier must go through an agent, with further fees to be paid. Telephone numbers are given, but many systems are automated, and getting a human to speak to can be next to impossible; faxes and e-mail rarely get a reply, and websites are often out of date.

Applying for a visa requires completion of an application form that can be downloaded from many consular websites or acquired by mail. Temporary restrictions may be placed, sometimes for years at a time, on areas where there is unrest, and a further permit may be required. This is currently the case with Tibet where, until recently, travelers were required to form groups before entering the region, and to pay a huge price for a tour (but they were not required to actually join it on arrival). For details of Tibet permits, see chapter 14. Do not mention Tibet or Xinjiang on your visa application, or it may be turned down.

Some consulates indicate that sight of an airline ticket or itinerary is required, or that you give proof of sufficient funds, or that you must be traveling with a group, while they happily carry on business with individuals who have none of this supporting documentation. Such statements provide a face-saving excuse for refusing a visa should there be unrest or political difficulties, or should Tibet or Xinjiang appear on the application.

One passport photograph is required, as well as one for any child traveling on a parent's passport.

The visa fees quoted below by country are the current rates for nationals of that country, and can change at any time. U.S. citizens applying for a double-entry visa in the U.K., for instance, are charged more than British citizens. Regulations may also vary. In addition to the visa fees quoted, there may be supplementary fees for postage, and higher fees can often be paid for speedier service. Payment must always be in cash or by money order.

Once you're inside China, single-entry tourist visas only can usually be extended once for a maximum of 30 days at the Aliens Entry-Exit department of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in most towns and cities. U.S. citizens pay ť125 ($16), U.K. citizens ť160 (ţ12), Canadians ť165 (C$28), and Australians ť100 (A$18).

Extensions within China now typically take 5 working days to process, although you may sometimes be able to cajole offices into faster service.

Consulates in the United States -- Single-entry visas are $50; double-entry $75. Visit www.china-embassy.org, which has links to all U.S. consular sites and a downloadable application form. Applications must be delivered and collected by hand, or sent via a visa agency.

Consulates in Canada -- Single-entry visas are C$50; double-entry C$75. Visit www.chinaembassycanada.org for an application form. Applications must be delivered and collected by hand, or sent via a visa agency.

Consulates in the United Kingdom -- Single-entry visas are ţ30; double-entry ţ45. There's a supplementary charge of ţ20 for each package dealt with by mail. Visit www.chinese-embassy.org.uk for an application.

Consulates in Australia -- Single-entry visas are A$30; double-entry A$45. Add A$10 per package dealt with by mail or courier, and a prepaid return envelope.

Consulates in New Zealand -- Single-entry visas are NZ$60; double-entry NZ$90. Add NZ$15 per package dealt with by mail or courier, and a prepaid return envelope. Go to www.chinaconsulate.org.nz for more information.

Consulates Elsewhere -- A complete list of all Chinese embassies and consulates can be found at the Chinese foreign ministry's website: www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng (or various mirror sites around the world). Click on "Missions Overseas."

Buying Visas in Countries Bordering China -- Note that the Chinese Consulate in Kathmandu, Nepal, will not sell visas to individual travelers wanting to enter Tibet overland, or they may stamp the visa to prohibit overland entry via the Friendship Highway. The consulate in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, will usually refuse visas to those not holding a fax or telex from a Chinese state-registered travel agency, or they will stamp the visa to prohibit overland entry via the Torugart Pass. Obtaining visas at the consulate in Almaty can also sometimes be difficult for nonresidents of Kazakhstan.

Buying Visas in Hong Kong -- The easiest place to apply for a mainland visa is Hong Kong, where there are several China visa options. Single-entry tourist "L" visas valid for 3 months are easily obtainable, as is the (unextendable) double-entry version. Multiple-entry "F" visas are also easy to obtain via visa agents and without the letter of invitation required to obtain them at home. Single-entry visas bought through HK agents typically cost HK$250 to HK$350 (US$25-US$30/[bp12.50-ţ15), multiple-entry "F" visas around HK$600 (US$65/ţ33). Expect fees of two or three times this amount for British and American citizens. Offices located just a few minutes' walk from the main tourist areas charge less still.

Entering the Mainland from Hong Kong and Macau -- It is possible for all but British citizens to buy a permit at the Lo Wu border crossing from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, valid for 72 hours of travel in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone only. According to the Guangzhou PSB, tourist visas can be purchased on arrival at Guangzhou East station by direct express railway from Hong Kong, but prices are higher than in Hong Kong and the choice of options is considerably less. It is possible to buy a 3-month "L" visa or 6-month "F" visa from a branch of China Travel Service on the mainland side of the crossing from Macau to Zhuhai. .

Hong Kong Visas

U.S., Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand citizens, and those of most other developed nations, are granted 90-day stays free on arrival. British citizens are granted 180 days. Passports should be valid for 1 month longer than the planned return date. In theory, proof of sufficient funds and an onward ticket may be demanded, but this request is almost unheard of.

Macau Visas

U.S., Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand citizens are granted 30-day stays free on arrival. British and most other E.U. nationals can stay up to 90 days without a visa. Passports should have at least 30 days of remaining validity upon your arrival.

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