Have you been dying to take a real vacation, actually leave the country and have a true adventure? If so, why not think about China. China is a country filled with diverse landscapes, mixed with ultra modern cities, traditional villages and customs that date back for centuries.
Now you might think that going to China is way too expensive and the process is probably complicated. Or you may think you will need some special immunizations. Don’t worry you don’t need any special shots. And you will be surprised to know that a trip to China can be much more affordable than going to Europe or Australia. But there are 2 things you will need in order to be China bound and that is a Passport and a Visa
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You need a Passport
If this is your first vacation out of the country, the first thing you need to get is your Passport. You must have a passport in order to apply for a visa, so get your passport first, a couple of months sooner. To apply for a passport you need to do the following.
Go to the Department of State website to complete the form DS-11 Application for US Passport. Print your completed application, but DO NOT SIGN. Your signature must be witnessed.
You will also need your Proof of Citizenship. If you are a natural citizen, the original copy or a certified copy of your birth certificate qualifies. If you are not a natural citizen or do not have the original birth certificate, please see the Department of State website for all other options. You will also need a photocopy of your birth certificate or proof of citizenship, front and back if there is writing on the back.
The second thing you need is a Photo Identification, like a valid driver’s license or state ID card. Look for other options listed on the Department of State website. Again you need a photocopy of both front and back.
Also get a Passport Photo, with a white background, taken by a professional passport photo service, such as Walgreens, CVS, CostCo, Kinko’s, or the post office.
As of this writing, the fee for processing a US Passport application is $110.00 payable to the Department of State by personal, certified, cashier’s check or by postal money order. $35.00 is the acceptance fee that is paid to the agency (ex: post office) that accepts your application. And an additional $15.00 for your picture if taken by the post office.
Find a United States Post Office
You can turn in the paperwork for your passport to a local post office. Search online to see which post office offers this service. You may need to make an appointment for passport services. Also find out if the Post Office will be able to take the passport picture you will need.
If there is no local post office that does passport services, check online for the nearest Department of State. You can also get your application processed through the mail. Check online for details.
You need a China Visa
Now that you have your passport, it’s time to get your Visa. All US citizens that want to visit China can now apply for a 10 year, multiple entry, L Visa. The fee is $140.00. This Visa allows you to return to China, with the same visa within a 10 year period. And there is no restriction on how many times you can re-enter the country. But most Visas do give a limit as to how long you can stay each time. For example, a 10 year, multiple entry Visa may require you to exit the country every 60 days. I think the 10 year Visa is Great. It gives the tourist opportunities to return to China. There is so much to see and so much to do in China. You will need a second or third trip.
Now to Qualify for a Visa you need a Passport with at least 2 blank Visa pages. And if you have at least 1 year left on your passport, China will issue you a 10 year, multiple entry Visa by default. And don’t forget to include a photocopy of your passport information page.
Also needed is the Visa application form (form V.2013) and a photo, that needs to be glued to the form. Check the Chinese Consulate or Embassy nearest you online, to see if your state or city requires a different form. Download the form and type in your information, no empty spaces, type N/A for information that does not apply. Then print and sign. (Hand written applications are not acceptable to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate) A passport photo, with a white background can be taken by a professional passport photo service, such as Walgreen’s, CVS, Costco, or Kinko’s.
Other requirement is: Photocopy of round-trip airline reservation AND hotel reservation OR
Invitation Letter for Tourist Group issued by a Duly Authorized Tourism Unit; OR
Invitation Letter issued by an individual. For letters from individuals, a photocopy of the inviter’s Chinese ID card (front & back) is required. For a non-Chinese inviter, please include copy of their passport (main info page) and China resident permit.
To apply for your Visa you have 3 options. 1. Use a Visa Agency and easily start the process online. 2. A China Tourist Agent can process the documents for you. 3. You can take your paperwork to the Chinese Consulate or Embassy in your area (check online). I have used both a Visa Agency and a Tourist Agent before. Their fees were about the same.
For me using a Visa Agency was the Best Idea. If you like convenience this is the easiest way to go. You can do most of it online. And if you have any questions they will walk you through the whole process. Also you have the satisfaction of knowing you are getting it right. I like ivisa.com. Their website is very easy to follow. They have great online customer service which is a big plus for me. Also they do more than just China Visas. So I definitely plan on using them as I travel to other places.
Now let me mention, if you plan on staying in China only a few days while in transit to another country you may not need a Visa. But you must remain in that city and use the same airport. In this situation China is a layover not the destination. For example, you can travel from South Korea to China and stay up to 72 hours and then travel on to Thailand. In some cities the allowed stay is up to 144 hours. Check the Chinese Consulate website for more details. There are many places in China you could enjoy during a short stay.
Step 1: Get your passport
DS-11 Application for US Passport from Department State website; complete online, print. DO NOT SIGN.
Passport Photo taken at Walgreens, CVS, CostCo, Kinko’s or the post office
Proof of Citizenship or Birth Certificate + photocopies of front and back
Valid Picture ID + photocopies of front and back
Appointment at Post Office (Ask it they can take your picture)
Application fee $110.00, Acceptance fee $35.00, Picture fee $15.00
Step 2: Get you Visa
Passport, with 2 empty Visa pages, and a photocopy of passport information page
Visa Application Form (V.2013) competed, typed with photo attached
Proof of Round Trip ticket and Itinerary or Invitation letter
Visa Agency, China Tourist Agent or Chinese Consulate; Appointment
Visa fee $140.00, Agent fee open, Postage fee open
I hope when you are considering that new adventure for your next vacation or holiday you will decide on China. And I hope these tips will help you start preparing soon. Take a look at our post, “Why your next vacation should be to China”.
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