From the Great Wall to the Terracotta Army, China is truly an amazing and mysterious place. In 2008, China hosted the summer Olympics in Beijing where they announced to the world that they were open for business.
The world responded with a record number of visitors heading over to China, but oddly enough, the biggest obstacle for tourists wasn’t communism, safety, or pollution; it was the China visa application. Getting a visa for China is notoriously difficult and the requirements listed on the China Visa Application Center website seem to be open for interpretation. This guide will help you go through the application process with a lot less stress.
Where to get a visa for China
Canadians can’t get visas at consulates anymore. They must be obtained at one of the Chinese Visa Service Application Centres located in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. If you can’t go in person, your application can be sent via post.
Addresses can be found here:
China Visa Centre, Toronto
China Visa Centre, Vancouver
China Visa Centre, Calgary
China Visa Centre, Ottawa
China Visa Centre, Montreal
There are companies online that you can pay to process your visa for you, but they’re literally just mailing your documents to the application centres–you might as well do it yourself.
China visa cost
This is the complete fee chart for China visa applications.
Basic documents required for a China visa application
1) A valid passport with at least 2 blank pages and at least six months of validity from the expiry date of your visa.
2) A completed China visa application form. This can be filled out online and then printed; handwritten forms are not accepted.
3) One recent colour passport photo measuring 48mm x 33mm – This is not a standard Canadian passport size photo, so be sure the measurements are correct when having the photo cut.
4) Proof of legal status – This mainly applies to non-residents; they are looking for documents to prove you are legally allowed to be in Canada. I should note that if you’re applying for a visa to China from Canada with a passport that is not Canadian, there’s a good chance they’ll flag you.
If you have dual citizenship, but haven’t applied for your Canadian passport yet, it’s probably a good idea to get it before applying for your visa.
5) Original copy of previous Chinese passport – This only applies to people who used to reside in Hong Kong or China, and entered Canada using this document. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in Canada or if you’re now a landed immigrant or citizen; China still requires you to show this documentation. There are some exceptions, but they are made on a case-by-case basis. If you’re a former resident, it’s best to bring any documentation you still have.
Last year, when I applied for visas for my parents along with my own, the China visa centre in Toronto wanted to see all of my parent’s original documentation from when they entered Canada. My parents came to Canada almost 40 years ago, and have been Canadian citizens for more than 30 years, yet the application centre still insisted on seeing the original documents. Fortunately, they kept everything so it wasn’t a problem, but you can see why this frustrates many.
If you’re a former resident of China or Hong Kong, I advise you to bring all and any supporting materials that you may have e.g., birth certificates, citizenship cards, marriage certificates/affidavit (if you changed your name since entering Canada). Having these documents handy will definitely help with your application.
Oddly enough, as a born Canadian, I had no real problems with my China visa application.
Supporting Documents Required for a China visa
1) Booked airlines tickets showing your entry and departure dates.
2) Booked accommodations for the duration of your stay in China.
3) An invitation letter from a relevant individual—if you’re staying at a hotel you don’t need this.
You are not reading this wrong, China requires you to have EVERYTHING booked and confirmed before they will issue you a visa. China is very strict about this and they require the names of all travellers to be on the reservation regardless of what accommodations you book. It doesn’t matter if you’re a family; they expect to see every name on the reservation.
The invitation letter is required if you’re staying with friends or family. It’s basically a letter saying that you’re invited (again all names need to be on this letter), the purpose of your trip, the address of where you’ll be staying and a photocopy of the inviter’s identification.
Visa trip cancellation insurance
If your visa doesn’t get approved, what should you do with the airfare? It’s actually pretty easy to protect yourself; if you’re applying for a tourist or student visa, just purchase trip cancellation insurance prior to applying for your visa. You will be fully covered assuming you are not denied a visa due to something within your control e.g. not submitting your visa application on time. Also note that if you booked with Air Canada, the ticket is fully refundable if the visa was denied.
Coverage for non-issuance of travel visas is pretty common among trip cancellation policies but if you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage consider Travel Underwriters’ Freedom Policy. Regardless of which plan you decide to go with, always read the fine print before making your purchase.
What are some China visa exemptions?
Surprisingly enough there are a few situations where visas are not required for entering China.
China has adopted a visa-free policy of 72 hours for those who are flying directly to any of the following cities: Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Xian. Additional Chinese cities plan on implementing this policy and certain restrictions do apply, so be sure to check online for updates. You technically still need a 72-hour visa but this is obtained in the airport for free with proof of your outbound flight.
Hong Kong and Macau are both Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China but neither require a visa to enter.
If your flight is stopping over in China and you’re in the airport for less than 24 hours then no visa is required.
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