Tuesday, September 1, 2009
If you are an American and planning on going to China, then you are required to obtain a Travel Visa. It is highly recommended that you plan this well in advance. I obtained my Visa two months in advance through a Visa service. It can take weeks to process.
What you MUST know:
1. You CAN NOT get into China without a Travel Visa (as an American). Period
2. Decide if you are going to need a Single or Multiple entry Visa. This is extremely important. A single entry Visa is only if you are going to China, and staying in China for the duration of your vacation. If you are leaving China for any reason and returning then you need a multiple entry Visa. For instance, if you are on a cruise ship that goes to Shanghai, then to Taiwan, then up to Beijing, you HAVE to have a multiple entry Visa. I stress this because I have seen people confined to the ship for this. They will NOT let you off the boat in China, if you have used up your single entry visa. So err on the side of caution and always get a multiple entry visa.
3. Multiple and Single entry Visas are the same price. They are not cheap and can run $100 to $200 per person, depending on where you get it. For instance, if you live in San Francisco where there is a Chinese Consulate, then you can walk in and get the Visa Processed yourself. If you live in a state that does not have a Chinese Consulate, then you have to hire a service to do it for you. You can not mail your Visa application to the Consulate, someone has to literally walk in and process it on your behalf. This is why there are Visa services.
A Visa service will generally charge you $70-$100 per person in addition to the cost of the Visa, when all is said and done. This is how I obtained my Visa.
4. There are multiple forms that you have to fill out in order to apply for a Visa. The Visa Service or the Consulate will give you this paperwork. If you are using a Visa Service online, then you can generally download the pdf versions. You will need to get two passport photos and mail them along with your application. You can get more detailed information from the Visa Service or Consulate.
5. A Visa takes up an entire page on your passport and the Chinese Immigration officials will stamp on additional pages. In other words, make sure you have plenty of blank pages in your passport, as well as having at least six months remaining on your passport. They won't let you into the country or process your paperwork if your passport expires sooner than six months.
6. Chinese Immigration seems to be different every time you go to a new part of China. So Immigration in Beijing doesn't always have the same methods as Immigration in Hainan. Be prepared to deal with this at times. Chinese Immigration is generally nice and helpful, but take care not to be rude or argumentative. Remember, you're in someone else's country.
I know this is a lot of information, but it's important, please do your research.