What I Learned About China’s Visa Policy

A few days ago, I purchased a roundtrip from Boston to Beijing for a little bit more than $2,300. This is one of the better business class fares that I have seen. I am excited to visit China for the first time. After doing some research on the Chinese tourist visa policy, I am left with a huge headache. Here are the requirements for a Chinese tourist visa:

  1. a passport that’s valid for longer than six months from the arrival date and that contains at least two blank pages
  2. a completed tourist visa application form
  3. a photograph that fits the requirements
  4. proof of the itinerary including flight and hotel booking documents

Numbers 1, 3, and 4 are not an issue. The issue lies with number 2. I incorrectly assumed that I could either complete the Chinese tourist visa online or at the very least, mail it to the nearest Chinese Embassy. You have to submit the application in person or use trusted agent. Depending on the consular office, you may have to do an in person interview. Lastly, you or your agent are required to pick up your passport with visa approximately four business days after the interview. There is a $140 fee that is due at the time of pickup.

The issue that I have is that the nearest Chinese Embassy for me is located in Houston, Texas. That is easily a five hour drive in one direction. Add another drive for the interview and a drive to pick up the passport, then I am looking at more than 30 hours in the car. This is not something that I want to do. Let’s look at the math of this: 3 days off of work, 30 hours travel, approximately $300 for gas, and $140 for the visa. Nope. The math does not work for me.

After a little more research, I found a silver lining. China allows 144 hour visa free transit. This allows passengers from 53 qualified countries to stay in six Chinese regions (Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei) for 144 hours without a visa. This visa will cover my four days on the ground in China. The United States is one of the qualified countries and with Beijing being one of the regions, I am good to go. Whew! Now I have the option of staying in Beijing, without the hassle of going to Houston, or traveling to another country (my preferred option). I will admit that I was stressed about the visa, but after doing a little research, all of my angst went away.

Have you ever had an issue with visas in China?

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