After booking a trip to China, your next step is to sort out your China travel visa and while it’s not difficult to do, you will need to set time aside for this.
You don’t need to shell out ££s to a visa service agent/company for assistance (unless you want to) as it’s easy to apply by yourself.
Note: You won’t be able to organise your visa until AFTER you’ve booked your travel and you’ll need to produce proof of travel and accommodation as part of the visa application process.
How to Get Your China Travel Visa (UK Citizens)
Regardless of whether you decide to go through an agent, or to follow our DIY tips, everyone going on your trip will need to visit a visa centre IN PERSON. No exceptions!
China visa centres in the UK are located in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Go To An Agent
These cost upwards from £250 per person (!!) on top of the cost of your visa (approx £160-£186 per person).
You may need to use this route if you’ve ever, for example, overstayed on a visitor visa anywhere in the world, if you have any criminal convictions, work in journalism or have political affiliations that might cause the Chinese Government concern. You should expect the fee to be higher in these cases to reflect the extra work involved.
If you’d rather not pay an agent’s fee, you don’t want to miss the next option…
- Read the step by step guide
- Download your Chinese visa application form and fill it in. Here are the links you need for the different centres:
- London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Usually, you’ll choose the option to travel as a tourist, which is the first option on the application form. You’ll need all of your travel documentation to hand when completing your application form, as you need to detail your travel arrangements including flight numbers and detail all accommodation you will be staying in.
Choose the option to ‘submit in person‘. There is a ‘by post’ option on the form, however this is now disabled as they amended their rules in May 2018, but haven’t changed the form as at time of writing. Apart from your personal and travel details you will need to select the service type you wish for your visa processing. The options are:
- Express – Collect from Visa Centre: You may collect your passport, with visa in it if approved, from the centre in 3 working days, if your submission appointment was before 12pm, 4 working days if after 12pm. You can currently authorise a third party to do this for you.
- Express – Return by post: You’ll get your passport, with visa in it if approved, within 5 working days by registered post. Please note, if you’re travelling as a group, passports will only be posted to one address.
- Standard/Regular – Collect from Visa Centre: As Option 1 above, but your passport will be ready for collection 2 weeks from date of submission
- Standard/Regular – Return by post: As Option 2 above, but you’ll get your passport by post in 15 working days.
Keep your browser window open, because you need to book your appointment next. At time of writing, tourist visas are only valid for 90 days. Visa centres advise you to make an appointment no more than 4 weeks before your date of travel.
SEE ALSO: Dispelling Myths About China
Book Your Appointment Online:
Progess to Section 2: ‘Submit at the Centre’, (3) Make an appointment,and select the ‘click here’ link to book.
Appointments are available up to 2 months from your log on date. Choose your preferred date and book it! You can book individually or as a party travelling together.
Tip: If the link is playing up for booking your appointment (this happened to me) phone the centre and you will get to speak to a helpful, understanding person who will make the appointment for you.
What to Take to Your Appointment
- Your passport: the expiry date must be more than 6 months after the date you will depart from China.
- 2 passport size photos: taken no more than 6 months before your planned date of travel.
- A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport (the one with your photo). Either colour or black and white is acceptable.
- A letter of invitation from the China based link of your travel firm.
- A copy of your itinery, including all (hotel or other) addresses where you will be staying during your visit.
- Copies of your airline e-tickets, to prove you have booked a return flight.
- Method of payment. They will accept cash, debit card or credit cards (VISA or Mastercard). One little quirk is that visa centres will not accept a mix of payment methods if you are making a joint/group application. If one wants to pay cash, but others want to pay by card(s) this is not accepted.
Tip: You will end up with quite a large pack of documents to take to your appointment. We recommend organising everything into a single plastic wallet and “grouping” documents together.
What Happens at Your Visa appointment
Tip: If you’re going to be late for your appointment, you should telephone the centre to make them aware. As long as you can make it to the centre by 3pm, you’ll still be seen on that day but you should expect to wait longer. If you can’t get there by 3pm, the centre will try to see you, but won’t be able to guarantee it; they will however help you reschedule your appointment for another day.
When you arrive at the visa centre the reception clerk will ask to see your passport – you should hand your passport photocopy over at the same time. The clerk will give you a slip with your appointment number, return your passport and keep the copy of your passport.
Then it’s a bit like waiting at a deli or job centre as you sit and wait (and wait…) until your number comes up. We had a scheduled appointment time booked for 1.30 but it was closer to 2.30 when we were called forward
Tip: Bring a book/kindle/anything that will entertain you while you wait, this may take some time. You might also want to pack a bottle of water and a snack as there is an onsite vending machine but it’s expensive and the selection is poor…..
At The Desk
When your number comes up with the cubicle number to attend, take the rest of your documents and present them. You will have chosen the service you require in advance. The clerk will check that you have completed your form correctly and that you have submitted all the right documents before they process it.
Depending on the service you’ve chosen, the clerk may ask you to fill in your personal details on the registered post envelope and will ask you to make a note of the number and ask you to take a photo of the envelope. Then the clerk will hand you a bill and send you to another area to wait and pay your visa fee.
Don’t forget that the centre will retain your passports for 3 days (express service), 2 weeks (normal service)
The Cost of your China Travel Visa
At time of writing (Sept ’18), Chinese visa application fees are:
- £151 per person for a standard/regular application
- £178 per person for express applications
- £175 per person for your passport(s) to be posted back to you
Check the up to date fee schedule here (the fees are the same at all UK centres)
What it all boils down to is you could more than double the cost of your visa if you use a visa application agent! We recommend you save that unneccessary fee and spend the money instead on a treat or a trip while you’re in China!
Wait for your visa to arrive/be ready for collection and congratulate yourself on saving ££s by taking the DIY option.
Tip: If you go to the London Centre to arrange your visa, there’s a lovely pub directly across the road with excellent food and friendly staff. You may find you need a little refreshment if you’ve had a long wait for your visa. On the flip side, you are now going to China!
Now that your China travel visa is sorted, why not browse our China destination information too. China is wonderful, but very different, so it’s good to be prepared!
But wait, there’s more!
Don’t forget to check out our unmissable 35 tips for your trip to China.
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