Chinese Visa

Chinese visa application can be a pain in the ass if you don’t research how to apply. The application process varies from country to country and cities to cities. Try to apply from your own country before you leave. The application rules and process in Laos will differ from the ones in Kyrgyzstan.

First visa

I applied from Vientiane, capital city of Laos. Reading online and going to about 15 different travel agents in town, I was 99% sure I needed to book a flight and hotel to apply for a Chinese visa in Vientiane. So before heading to the embassy, I went to a travel agent who could produce fake booking. This obviously incurred a fee. I was quoted anywhere from $45AUD (350 000 kip) to $4AUD (30 000 kip). I found a lady who knew what she was doing; it wasn’t the first time she was asked to do it. And she charged me 30 000 kip.

So, with my fake plane ticket and hotel (3 nights in Shanghai) fake booking and my fake story prepared, I headed to the Chinese embassy which was relatively easy to find thanks to Google maps. The first thing I see walking towards the booth window inside the office is a paper glued to the window clearly staying “For visa applications you need: Plane ticket booking, Hotel booking, Passport photo, Photocopy of Passport Bio page”. The English lady in front of me tried to explain the clerk it didn’t mentioned that on their website. She was turned around. I picked up the form and filled it with my “intended itinerary” and submitted the paperwork. I was handed a confirmation slip and told to go the ICBC bank (Black fonts, red logo) close to morning market to make the payment. My visa would be ready in 5 working days.

Finding the bank was also remarkably easy; it’s on the main road – Avenue Lane Xang. Walking in the bank being a foreigner, people there will know exactly what you’re there for and they’ll ask you “Visa payment?” You’ll be directed to the information desk where a paper will be handed out to you and told to go to a window. Once at the window (waiting time depends on so many variables here, I am not going to elaborate…) the clerk will ask for $32 US dollars (fee for Australians… may be different according to your nationality) and an additional 10000 kip for “treatment process” or whatever they make up.

The whole process took about 2 hours, from getting to the embassy to walking out of the bank. I picked up my passport and visa 5 working days later with a brand new label saying Chinese Visa valid for 30 days from the date of entry. Single entry. Done. The following day I was en-route towards Vang Vieng on my push bike, planning to cross the Chinese border at Boten. Fake plane and hotel reservations down the drain.

1st Extension – Leshan

I got a visa extension from Leshan and it was pretty straight forward.

My visa was supposed to expire on the 5th of May so I applied with 7 days left on my current visa. I applied on the 28th of April 2014 about 9am, got my passport back on the 30th around 15h. I reckon I could’ve gone in the morning and would’ve been ready for pick up. Note that there’s a 3 days public holiday from the 1st of May which worried me but it turned out good. My new Chinese visa sticker shows an expiry date of 4th of June 2014; that’s 37 days from the issue date. In other words, the remaining days on my old visa were added to my new one.

Before heading to the PSB, make sure you stay in a hotel/guesthouse which places your reservation on the “Chinese National Accommodation Booking System”, if I can call it that way… Every decent guesthouse will have this system installed on the reception’s desk computer. When you bring the pink slip at the PSB, they will make a search on that system to make sure you’re booked in somewhere in town. Piece of advice, once you see someone successfully entering your details on that system, take photos with your smartphone or camera for future registratio when booking in cheap guesthouses in villages.

So, what I needed:
– Pink slip from my hotel/guesthouse
– Photocopy of Passport Bio page
– Photocopy of current Chinese Visa
– Photocopy of entry stamp
– Passport
– Passport photo
– 160 yuan
– Completed form (given at the information desk went walking in the PBS)
– Completed itinerary (given by an agent at the PBS)

Locating the PBS was easy; address is 548 Fenghuang, 3rd floor. The address on the building is clearly identified on a blue label. Walk up the stairs to enter the building: you’re already on level 2. Take the stairs to the right and go up 1 level; you’re on level 3. Go left, look up and you see the Public Security Bureau sign. There’s a small information desk where I walked up to and told the friendly girl I wanted to extend my visa. She asked for my hotel booking confirmation, aka the pink slip from the guesthouse . After a quick read on the slip, she handed me a form to fill.

Once the form completed and my passport photo glued (there is glue on the small desks where you fill the form), I was directed to window 3. The friendly girl (and speaking good English!) asked once again for my hotel pink slip, photocopies of my passport and the application form. She then handed me the itinerary form. It had 5 columns: Date, City, View Spots, Hotel, Transportation. As I am cycling around, I absolutely have NO idea where and what date I’m going to get “there”, wherever it is. View spots? I don’t know. Hotel? No idea. So, approximately, I wrote dates and major cities where I am going to be. I submitted the form with 6 lines of major cities I plan to cycle through (Chengdu, Xi’an, Tianshui, Lanzhou, Urumqi and Kashgar) each filled with only 3 info: Date, City and Transportation which was bicycle for all destinations. I left the “View spots” and “Hotels” blank.

I handed in the itinerary form, they took yet another photo of my ugly face and they handed me back the pink slip. After a moment filling some screens on her computer she handed me a confirmation paper and told to come pick my passport on the 30th by 16h. I was then told to go to window 5 for payment. And that was it! Picked up my new visa 2 days later from Window 6, took 1 minute.

2nd extension – Lanzhou

I got a 2nd visa extension from Lanzhou. The term “extension” is confusing here. In Leshan, I had 30 days stay to which the remaining days on the existing visa were added, so I got a new visa sticker for 37 days on the first extension.

From Lanzhou, I got a new visa starting on the date of application ending in 30 days. They did not add the remaining days I had on the current visa.

The PSB in Lanzhou is very easy to find and there’s a clear sign on the building; 482 Wudu Lu, go up on the 2nd floor. Arriving on the 2nd floor, I was asked for the hotel booking slip and my passport by the friendly officer (Mr. Zhao Ming). He flicked through the pages and told me that I had already applied for an extension from Leshan. He then told me I couldn’t get another extension. Acting surprised, I replied that I didn’t know and told him it was the first time I heard that. He made a phone call and after 5 minutes he hung up and told me “We’re going to give you a new visa valid for 30 days. Please follow this man.” I was then guided into another room where I was asked where I’d came from and where I intended to go. I filled in a form (similar to the one in Leshan for my first extension), discussed with the officer while filling the form. Again, very friendly person. Handing in the form, I was obliged to take a photo which was digitized into a system – from camera card into computer then imported into a system; 35 yuan for this process. After a bit of problems with the printer, I went back to Mr. Zhao – the first officer I talked to – who asked me to write my itinerary on a blank piece of paper and wrote the cities I planned to go along with the approximate date. After paying for the visa and a bit of discussion with Zhao, he told me to comeback in 2 days to pick up my new visa!

In all, what I needed:
– Passport
– Hotel booking slip
– Filled visa form (provided by officers at the PSB)
– Itinerary (provided by officers at the PSB)
– 195 yuan (160 for the visa, 35 for the digital photo)

Note that I wasn’t asked for any passport photocopy, passport photo (it was taken there and imported into a system) and bank records. Very easy process, relatively fast and officers spoke good English. I applied on the 27th of May around 10h, picked up on the 29th, around 16h with a 30 days validity.

Hope this helps! Let me know if more questions…