Applying for a China mainland visa in USA

If you are looking to applying for the China visa in Hong Kong, refer to this post. Note you do not need a visa to visit HK or Macau if you are a US passport holder.

As a US Citizen, I am now able to get a 10 year visa for mainland China which is wonderful! Previously I would have to get them each year and spend inordinate amounts of money and time at the China Resources Building in Wan Chai for the yearly visas.


My old one year visa expired so I figured it’s time to get a new 10 year visa! I am in Los Angeles at the moment, so I figure I’d apply here in preparation of a future trip to Shanghai (which ultimately was scrapped.)

If you’re a US Citizen wanting to apply for a visa in the US you have a couple of options. Here is the list in my preferred order.

1. Use a local travel agent to get your visa.

I used China Travel Service USA, there’s one in SF and LA. It was physically close to me and I know they are legit. Visa information on the website was updated and clear.

Pricing was $190 which is $50 more than the regular $140 price. I thought the service of going there and getting them to get the visa is well worth $50. You can try other Chinese travel agents near you too, but prices vary. Shop around, I found some well over $200.

When I went to the office, dropped off the passport, extra photo, and visa application. Paid via credit card. The person at the office was thorough checking my application making sure everything was prim and proper to be approved. They also printed out a plane ticket itinerary for me for the visa application, easy but I certainly didn’t need to purchase the ticket from them.

Picked up the visa 3 business days later and had no problems.

2. Mail in option

According to the Embassy website, they no longer handle visas by mail. You can use a service such as Allied Passport which we have a relationship with, use the aforementioned link and get $5 off.

Of course when applying by mail you need to do it well in advance to avoid rush fees, it’s $189 + Fedex fee for regular service, fairly reasonable in my opinion. Allied Passport is based in Washington DC. There are plenty of other visa processing firms on the web as well.


China visa fees for US Citizens
Type of visaMaximum validityProcessing timeEmbassy fee
Washington DC Jurisdictionup to 10 years10 business days$ 140.00
Washington DC Jurisdictionup to 10 years5 business days$ 140.00
Washington DC Jurisdictionup to 10 years2 business days$ 160.00
Outside DC Jurisdictionadd $10


Service fee is per person per visa determined by “Date Needed.”
Process time allowed when availableService Fee
Standard Processing 10+ business days:$ 49.00
Expedited Processing 4-9 business days:$ 109.00
Emergency Processing 1-3 business days:$ 199.00


We do not accept customer prepaid labels or return envelopes. Add $12 for Alaska & Hawaii.
We offer Federal Express combined shipping rates!.
Federal Express Third Day$ 22.00
Federal Express Second Day$ 26.00
Federal Express Next Day Morning$ 33.00
Federal Express Saturday Delivery$ 45.00
When available
One Way Local Delivery within Washington city per applicant$ 25.00
One Way Local Delivery within Washington beltway per applicant$ 75.00

3. Go visit the nearest Embassy/Consulate and apply in person.

The website is poor at best. I don’t recommend this method unless you’re located extremely close to the location mentioned and have plenty of time. Waiting time to drop off the application and pick-up can be enormous and they’re usually very particular about how you fill out the application, including completeness.

Embassy / Consulate locations in the US

  • Washington DC
  • New York
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco

  Processing Time

Regular service: 4 business days

Express service: 2-3 business days

Rush  service: 1 business day. Available only in extreme emergencies and subject to approval by the consular officer.


  1. The above processing time is average and for reference only. Some applications may require longer processing time that a pick-up date cannot be confirmed until notified by the Visa Office.
  2. Processing time for visa to HKSAR or Macao SAR visa does not apply. (Check more info here)


  1. Regular Service
Number of EntryU.S. CitizenNon-U.S. Citizen*
Single Entry$140$30
Double Entries$140$45
Multiple Entries for 6 Months$140$60
Multiple Entries for 12 Months or more$140$90

*Visa fee for certain non-U.S. citizens may vary from the list above based on reciprocal agreements. Please check with a Visa Office for special fees.

  1. Express service: an additional fee of $20 per visa
  2. Rush service: an additional fee of $30 per visa

Methods of Payment

  1. You must pay your visa fee upon collection of your visa. (Some HKSAR or Macao SAR visa applicants need to pay a Communication fee prior to submission.)
  2. Acceptable methods of payment are: credit card (Visa or Mastercard only), money order, cashier’s check or company check.
  3. Please make your check or money order payable to “Chinese Embassy” (for applications submitted to the Embassy), or to “Chinese Consulate in XXX”(for applications submitted to the Consulate General in XXX city)
  4. Please make sure you have the exact and correct amount written on your check/money order. No erroneous check will be accepted.
  5. Cash, personal check or online payment is NOT accepted. NO credit card other than a Visa or Mastercard is accepted.


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