SHANGHAI: Getting There, Pt. 1

Obtaining a Chinese Visa

Entry requirements do change. Be sure to verify information with the State Department or the Chinese Consulate website before you begin planning for your trip.

Unless you hold a passport from Japan, Singapore or Brunei, you’ll need a visa for the People’s Republic of China. If you’re a citizen of the United States, there are few different methods for obtaining your visa:

1) If you live in a city with a Chinese Consulate Generals office you may go in-person to apply for your visa. Make sure to check the Consulate website for operating hours; the office is closed several times a year for holidays, e.g. National Day in October.
2) You may hire an agent to go on your behalf. There are visa agencies that specialize in this service and many travel agencies offer this for an additional fee.

For tourists, single-entry and multiple-entry visas are $140. Both expire one year from the issue date and you cannot stay in China longer than 30 days each entry. You need a visa and a passport with at least six months validity to enter China. The application is available online and you’ll need to provide one standard passport photo along with your application.

In Los Angeles, the consulate is located in Koreatown and has metered parking as well as some paid lots within a couple blocks. You’ll need to get yourself a numbered ticket, grab a seat if you can find one and wait for your number to be called. If your application is filled out correctly, all you’ll need to confirm is your pick-up date; payment is due upon pick-up.

In my experience, getting to the consulate as the office opens is your best bet to avoid longer lines. A long line at the consulate can last hours and if you arrive too late in the afternoon you may be asked to leave and come back another day (and start the process all over). Since it’s difficult to predict waiting times in advance, bring a book or a laptop to keep yourself occupied.

Same-day pick is not available. Standard processing takes about three days; expedited turnaround is 24 hours plus a $20 rush charge. When returning for your documents, queue up at the Pick-up window–no ticket required. Wait times here are also unpredictable but in my experience I’ve never waited longer than 20 minutes. If you arrive on a normal business day, i.e. not after a holiday, you’ll probably for less than 10 minutes.

Helpful Online Resources:

U.S. State Department
Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China

Entry requirements do change. Be sure to verify information with the State Department or the Chinese Consulate website before you begin planning for your trip.

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