After booking a trip to China, your next step is to sort out your China travel visa and it’s not difficult. You don’t need to shell out ££s to a visa service agent/company for assistance (unless you want to).
Note: You can’t organise your visa until AFTER you’ve booked your travel.
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 centes in the UK are located in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.
1. 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, got any criminal convictions, work in journalism or have political affiliations that might cause the Chinese Government concern. Expect the fee to be higher to reflect the extra work involved.
If you’d rather not pay an exhorbitant fee, then try option 2: ‘DIY’. It’s incredibly easy, when you know what to do.
- Read the step by step guide
- Download your Chinese visa application form and fill it 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: Your passport, with visa in it if approved, will be posted to you 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 your passport will be posted 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.
To Book an 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.
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 you will be staying at during your visit.
- Copies of your airline e-tickets, to prove you have booked a return flight
- Method of payment. They will accept debit card or cash, but will not accept a mix if one wants to pay cash, but others want to pay by card(s).
What happens at your visa appointment
If you’re going to be late for your appointment, call the centre. As long as you can make it there by 3pm, you’ll still be seen on that day; you’ll just have to wait a little longer. If you can’t get there by 3pm, they will try to see you, but won’t guarantee it; they will however help you reschedule your appointment for another day.
When you arrive at the visa centre you will be asked to show your passport and give your passport photocopy to the reception clerk. They will give you a slip with your appointment number 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.
Bring a book/kindle/anything that will entertain you while you wait, this may take some time…..
When your number comes up with 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 your form is correctly completed and that you have submitted all documents required before they process it.
Depending on the service you’ve chosen, they 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 you’ll be handed a bill and sent to another area to wait and pay your visa fee.
Don’t forget that they will retain your passports for 3 days (express service), 2 weeks (normal service)
The Cost of your China Travel Visa
At time of writing, the 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)
Wait for your visa to arrive/be ready for collection and congratulate yourself on saving ££s by taking the DIY option.
If you go to the London Centre there’s a lovely pub across the road with excellent food and adorable staff. They will even hail a cab if you’ve had such a nice time chatting (aka hitting the fizz) with your travel buddy that you decide to have ‘one for the road’.
Have an amazing time in China, I hope you fall in love with it the way we did!