Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Chinese visa requirements

China has imposed additional requirements for Americans applying for a visa to visit the Middle Kingdom. Actually, it appears visa application requirements have changed for citizens of many other countries, so prospective visitors should check with the Chinese embassy in their home country for requirements.

Periodically, the Chinese government would require U.S. citizens to provide copies of hotel reservations and plane tickets, and sometimes letters of invitation to get a tourist (L) visa. This was mainly before major events in the country, such as the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing or the Shanghai World's Fair. Letters of invitation were pretty much always required to get business or work visas.

Now, the Chinese are requiring copies of all these documents all the time for Americans who want L visas. The letter of invitation can be provided by a tour company, institution or individual, but letters written by individuals require more information, including a copy of the inviter's ID card.

If there are any questions about the application and documents submitted, the Chinese government may require an interview with the applicant to clear up any issues.

Last year, the Chinese increased the visa application form from two to four pages, and went back to requiring people to apply for visas at the nearest consulate to their residence. For us, that is San Francisco, but because their staff is not as efficient as elsewhere, for the last few years, I've been using a visa service that works with the embassy in Washington, D.C.

The embassy's visa page explains the requirements in more details.

I'm guessing the new visa requirements will be harder on independent travelers than on those visiting China on organized tours, but only time will tell. The United States appeared to be easing visa applications restrictions for Chinese who want to visit this country, and now I'm wondering if that policy will tighten up again.

Are you going to China?

If you're planning a trip to China, please check out my website, Cheryl's China, and feel free to leave a question in the comments below or email me.

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