Although Hong Kong and Macau, two of the most popular tourist destinations in China, is implementing a visa-free policy, US citizens need a visa when entering mainland China.

This rule applies regardless if you’re entering straight to the mainland or you’re coming from these two visa-free destinations. But don’t worry! This article will help you get the idea how to apply for a Chinese tourist visa for US Citizens the simplest way possible!

Which type of visa should I apply?

China is one of the most strict countries when it comes to issuing a visa. But do you know that in-transit passengers can enter China for 72 to 144 hours even without a visa? You can get a visa-free entry for 72 hours if you’re transiting in Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, etc.

However, you are only allowed to stay within the borders of the city you landed and you should only arrive on a plane and not by other modes of transportation.

Transiting in the following provinces/cities, on the other hand, allows you 144 hours of visa-free entry to China: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, and Qinhuangdao. To know more, this guide here explains this scenario in full detail.

This information may be helpful for those who are not planning to stay longer in mainland China but for those who want to stay for a couple of weeks, a Chinese visa is your key. Depending on the purpose of your trip, there are 12 types of visa that you can apply on.

If you’re traveling to China mainly for tourism or for visiting friends or relatives, you should apply for the L Visa. Just remember that C Visa (which in some countries is commonly the visa type for tourism and visiting friends/relatives) belongs to another category in the Chinese visa. It is not for tourism. Instead, L Visa is the type of visa you’re looking for.

Types of L Visa

You can apply for a single entry or multiple entry tourist visa but the most popular ones are the Single Entry and Double Entry. A Single Entry Visa allows the visa holder to enter China ONCE and can stay for at most 30 days.

The Double Entry Visa allows the visa holder to enter China TWICE and can stay for at most 30 days each entry. There is also a special type of tourist visa which is valid for 10 years. To be able to qualify for this visa, the applicant’s passport must be valid for more than 12 months (1 year).


Requirements when applying for a Chinese tourist visa

  1. An original passport that must be at least 6 months valid with at least two blank pages.

  2. Photocopy of the passport details page

  3. Photocopy of previously issued Chinese visa, if applicable.

  4. Passport photo with size 48mm x 33mm.

  5. Proof of legal status (for those applying outside their country of citizenship)

  6. Completely filled in application form

  7. Original invitation letter from a recognized entity in China. This can also be a hotel reservation valid for the entire duration of your trip.

  8. A copy of a roundtrip ticket to China.

  9. Proof of financial capability

The proof of financial capability is usually not mandatory but there are cases where the consul asks for this document. Just prepare it to be sure or better call the consulate before your application schedule.

Chinese visa processing time

Assuming that you have all the requirements, the waiting time for your application should be between two to four working days.

Where to apply for a Chinese visa

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China is in Washington D.C. However, you can also find the Office of the Consulate General in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston. It is important to know that each of these offices has its own jurisdiction. To avoid delays and complication, you can check which office your area of residence belongs to:

Chinese Embassy in Washington

  1. Washington DC

  2. Delaware

  3. Idaho

  4. Kentucky

  5. Maryland

  6. Montana

  7. Nebraska

  8. North Carolina

  9. North Dakota

  10. South Carolina

  11. South Dakota

  12. Tennessee

  13. Utah

  14. Virginia

  15. West Virginia

  16. Wyoming

Consulate in New York

  1. Connecticut

  2. Maine

  3. Massachusetts

  4. New Hampshire

  5. New Jersey

  6. New York

  7. Ohio

  8. Pennsylvania

  9. Rhode Island

  10. Vermont

Consulate in Chicago

  1. Colorado

  2. Illinois

  3. Indiana

  4. Iowa

  5. Kansas

  6. Michigan

  7. Minnesota

  8. Missouri

  9. Wisconsin

Consulate in San Francisco

  1. Alaska

  2. Northern California

  3. Nevada

  4. Oregon

  5. Washington

Consulate in Los Angeles

  1. Arizona

  2. Southern California

  3. Hawai

  4. New Mexico

  5. Pacific Islands

Consulate in Houston

  1. Alabama

  2. Arkansas

  3. Florida

  4. Georgia

  5. Louisiana

  6. Mississippi

  7. Oklahoma

  8. Texas

Aside from applying through the Chinese Consulates, you can also get your visa through travel agencies.


Getting your visa online

As promised, this guide will help you get a Chinese visa the simplest way possible and if you’re traveling in a group, applying online is the best option for you. So how do you get a Chinese visa online? The steps are simple:

  1. Go to Chinese Visa Direct and create an account

  2. Choose the type of visa you’re applying for (Group Visa, Urgent Visa, etc)

  3. Provide your personal information

  4. Upload your supporting documents such as passport, roundtrip plane ticket, and hotel booking.

  5. Pay the fee using a Mastercard/Visa credit card, bank transfer, or PayPal.

Your visa will then be sent to you within 7 to 10 working days before your date of departure. The validity of this visa is also 30 days and the group visa fee costs $159.

Things to remember when getting a group visa

When traveling on a group visa, you must stay with your group at all times during the duration of your trip. This includes entering and exiting China altogether. The group visa is also only a single entry visa and it will be withdrawn upon exiting China.

So there you have it! Which of these options suits you better? Surely, they each have their own advantage and disadvantage but whether you choose to apply through the consulate or online, we wish you good luck on your application and happy traveling to The Red Dragon of Asia.

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