Applying for a China mainland visa in Hong Kong

Update June 2, 2017: If your passport was issued January 2015 onwards, the China visa office now wants to also see your previous passport. This is irrespective whether you had a China visa before or not.  For some, the picture of the personal information page in your old passport will be sufficient, but in others you may need the physical passport. We don’t know the criteria. Bring your old passport whenever possible. Please report your experiences in the comments section below to help others.

Update May 29, 2017: If you are transiting China, you may be eligible for a transit without visa.

Update June 26, 2016: Correct link to the updated form for visa application v2013. Old link on Ministry of Foreign affairs not updated.

Update: November 2014, US Citizens are now eligible to apply 10 year tourist and business visas.

I will preface this by saying, if you do not hold a HKID and reside in Hong Kong, it is usually much easier to apply for a China visa in your home country. Be forewarned.

Basically you will fall into two categories, [a] HKID holders and current residents, or [b] non-HK residents and tourists.

Address
China Resources Building,

No.26, Harbor Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong SAR

Office Hours
Monday to Friday (except Hong Kong public holidays,)

9:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00

Officially the government office here is “Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” It is not a consulate or embassy since Hong Kong is still in China.  Regardless, it basically acts like a consulate and is here to primarily process visa applications for Hong Kong residents.

Update June 26, 2016: Ministry of Foreign Affairs in typical form did not update their website, use this link for the form, not the old one below.

You will require the official visa form which is available online or in the office.

hk china visa office

[a] Hong Kong Identity Card holders

Steps:

  • Go to the office and pass through the x-ray scanners. Entry is on the ground floor, corner of the building closest to Gloucester Road, where the A is on the map image. If walking from Wan Chai MTR take the sky bridge towards the Immigration building and walk towards the right and ground floor after crossing the big highway (Gloucester Road.) You can cross the street to the China Resources building on street level.
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

  • Take the lift/elevator upstairs, visa processing is on the 3rd floor. Toilets located there too.
  • Fill out the visa form available on the right wall if you have not already done so. Also bring copies of everything. Your HKID, passport details page, current HK visa, anything else you think might be relevant. Otherwise they will make you copy them for $1 HKD each and there’s lines to use those machines too. You can get change at the front window if needed, but I suggest bringing change.
  • Once forms are fully completed, hand them to the clerk standing by the window who will check whether you filled it completely, at that point only will he provide you a ticket with queue number.
  • Wait, probably a long time and hand the forms to the processing agent when your number is called. I suggest bringing a book or iPad to watch a movie.
  • Submit documents to the clerk. Clerks usually are not particularly friendly so I’d suggest just having everything easily ready so they don’t get pissed off  and you can minimize any disputes with them. I learned from experience there’s no point arguing, they’re sticklers for whatever they say even if it makes no sense. You could always try to get another number and try your luck with another clerk. (One clerk told me I couldn’t get a new visa because my old one fell out, due to crappy Chinese glue apparently, and had to get a brand new passport. I’ve since gotten two China visas in the same original passport.)
  • If all is ok, they’ll tell you what visa you’re eligible for and provide you a receipt. Pick-up is in 4 business days, including day of submission. (e.g. Monday submit is a Thursday pickup.) You pay the visa fee at pick-up.

[b] HK Non-residents / Tourists

The process to apply for the visa is the same as above, except you won’t have a HKID card, but you will need more documentation. You may be asked for proof of return airline tickets and hotel bookings. Make copies of these for your submission. You will probably want to have a solid reason why you could not, or did not apply for a visa in your home country. I have seen people denied for visa and asked to apply in their home country if they don’t have solid reasoning & documentation. To avoid all of this, you may want to think about applying for a China visa by mail through your home country if you are not physically there.

My guess would be a lot of students and other individuals who are “teaching English” in China are trying to extend and renew their visas in Hong Kong. It’s a lot cheaper to come into Hong Kong than go back to Australia, Europe, or North America. Basically the office knows they’re illegally working in China and trying to discourage overstays. That’s a big reason I think the HK office only provides a 30 day duration of stay rather than 90 days you can get overseas.

Everyone don’t forget:

  • Visa pricing here. (USA is same price no matter length of visa.)
  • Fill out the application form completely. Include your parent’s names, dates of when and where you’ll be in China, including a physical address.
  • You must have a single or double entry visa before they will provide a multi-entry visa.
  • One-year multi-entry is usually the max length they will provide.
  • Your HK visa expiration date should be as far out as possible. If it expires soon they might use that as a reason to provide a shorter duration China visa to you.
  • Rush is available at an additional cost, same-day visas are not available. Express (3-days) $200 HKD, Rush (2-days, e.g. next day) $300 HKD.
  • Max stay is 30 days if you get a visa from the HK office. (I’ve received 90 day stays when applying in the USA.)
  • Try to go to the office during the later half of the morning or afternoon time blocks, there tends to be less people. I’ve always seen a line-up outside the building earlier in the day. Towards the end of the week is good too.

If you want to avoid all of this, you can use an agent to apply the visa for you. Of course they will charge a fee. China Travel Service (CTS) wanted for $1360 for a dual-entry and $2300+ for a multi-entry visa application for USA passport, so I decided to go myself and save some dough. It’s $1,100 if you go yourself. Not sure why there is a price difference for dual-entry and multi-entry at CTS when it costs the same for US citizens, but anyway the point is shop around and see if it’s worthwhile through CTS or any other agent in Hong Kong.

On a positive note, the visa processing office is now completely renovated. It’s very modern, large, and has more processing windows (but there’s more people so the wait is still very long.) The numbers were called at a rate of about 15 persons for every 10 minutes. I waited about 1 hour for 70 numbers to be called in front of me at 3:30pm on a Monday afternoon. You might want to try applying later in the week to avoid people wanting the visa back before the weekend like myself. Let us know how the whole process goes for you.

Using a visa agent

There are third parties that can streamline this process for you. They’ll go to the consulate, queue up, wait and handle all of the paperwork for you. It usually a lot easier than going yourself. There’s hundreds of them in Hong Kong and around the world. We recommend working with Asia Visas who is a visa agent partner of HKTravelBlog.

59 Responses

  1. Jenn says:

    US citizens with HKID are able to get a 10-year multi-entry visas here. got mine today even though my work permit expires next August.

  2. row says:

    p.s. photocopies are $2/page and someone is there to make change

  3. row says:

    the office is busiest on Mondays. less so on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the least on Fridays. This is what the attendant told me when I asked so I went on a Friday around 10am and was in and out within 35 or so minutes. Could have been 15 had I not had to redo my application form and re-queue.

    for visa agencies, i haven’t tried but from research on the internet, Forever Bright in Tsim Sha Tsui looks reliable, and i would have given them a try had i not been successful. CTS seems to overcharge.

  4. Karl says:

    Hi all – last week I successfully applied for my Z visa in HK for mainland China. I’ll share my experience in the hope that it might help one of you with your own visa applications there. For reference, I am an Irish National who was applying in HK because I was already in the region and it was more cost-effective than returning to my home country for application. I opted not to go through an agency because I had time to do it myself.

    The biggest takeaways from my visa application in HK are:
    – The complete ambiguity concerning the “old passport rule” that has supposedly come into effect since June of this year. Indeed, when I spoke to several recruitment agencies in HK about this beforehand, they insisted that without having it, the applicant would NOT be successful in applying for any work visa. I must have been fortunate, because I did not have my old passport when I applied at the consulate, nor was I even ASKED about it, and I was granted my visa without any issue.
    – This is not to say that I did not come prepared; indeed I spent weeks trying to determine the validity of this new rule, but unfortunately there is conflicting information; the agencies will tell you one thing, the consulate will have no update on their website about it. In fact, when I inquired about this with my country’s own consulate in HK, they informed me that they had never even heard about this new “rule” being in effect. One would think that if the consulate intended this to be the standard going forward, they would inform all of the local embassies on the island to communicate this on their own websites. As I am sure that many of you are aware, this old passport rule is not even mentioned on the HK consulate’s OWN WEBSITE. But then, neither is the new application form from 2013.
    – To protect myself against visa denial because of this potential new document rule, I managed to find a picture of my old passport data page, and then paid for a letter from my country’s consulate in HK, that basically stated I was the owner of both passports, and to my embassy’s knowledge, the information in both passports is valid and accurate. The cost of the letter was 420 HKD. I did this is because I did not have my old passport.
    – To sum up, the total list of the documents that I used to apply for my work visa were:
    1) Work Permit Notification Letter from my employer (English and Chinese versions!)
    2) Valid Passport (renewed after Jan 2015)
    3) Passport date page photocopies (mine were in black & white; no issue with that. Also included was a photocopy of my HK arrival sticker)
    4) “Invitation Letter” from my employer (this is a dubious requirement; all of the relevant information should be provided in your Work Permit Letter, but for the sake of security since I did not have my old passport, my employer produced a letter that highlighted my start/end dates and explained that they were aware that I did not possess my old passport, but requested that I be granted a Z visa on the basis of having the alternative documents that I mentioned above).
    5) Completed Visa Application form (please use the 2013 form! The ones listed on the HK consulate website are outdated by six years! The new form is 4 pages long and is much easier to fill out in my opinion – no info about health insurance providers required, for example).
    6) Passport photo for the application form (bring about 2 or 3 copies – you never know if you might need them!)

    And that was it for me; once I supplied all of those documents to the embassy official, she spent about one minute looking over them, said everything was in order, and asked me when I would like to collect my visa. Be pleasant to these people! I witnessed at least three incidents while I was waiting where applicants were arguing with them at the desk – that’s not going to help your application at all. Have everything ready, approach them with a smile, and if there are any parts of the form that you do not understand, mention it to them politely. They deal with hundreds of people everyday, and are probably not in the mood for a prolonged inspection of your form. They want to get it over and done with as quickly as they can, so make it as easy as you can for them – it’s a win/win situation!

    I hope this information helps at least one person on this blog. As far as the new visa “rule” is concerned, my experience shows that there are ways around it. Good luck with your own application!

  5. Katrina says:

    Question, new requirement about needing previous passport if your prior passport was issued after Jan 2015 – does this apply to all nationalities (Australian) or only US passports? Anyone had any luck with just showing copies of previous passport, rather than the original?

  6. levina says:

    hello,
    i’m currently live in beijing for school and i want go to hk to meet my family. and my visa is 1 entry. it is possible to make visa in hk? and i have my admission notice for school in beijing. maybe that admission notice will help to make visa. anyway, i’m indonesian.
    thanks

  7. Brunski says:

    Hello, I’m currently in Dongguan, have an Italian passport & on a 12 month multiple entry business visa which will expire in 2 weeks. I have a letter of invitation, can I come to HK to renew for a 12 month business visa or need to go to another non-china country? What is the cost to do in HK?

  8. Mari-Janet Lamprecht says:

    Question: my husband needs a tourist visa for China, but his passport was issued in January 2017, he do not have his previous passport with him. Will a photocopy of his previous passport’s info page be sufficient?

  9. Crystal says:

    Thanks for this article, very clear on the process. However I’m applying in Hong Kong for a tourist visa and want to get either a 90 day stay or multiple entry visa. I hold a HKID with no stars and a British passport and I have an expired 90 day visa already. I don’t have flights to leave China but planning to come back to Hong Kong via Shenzhen by train/MTR, how do I give proof of departure if I can’t buy the train/MTR tickets in advance?

  10. Keegan says:

    Hello,

    If a person holds a British Passport and a Hong Kong ID card, can they apply for a Z-Visa (for the British Passport) at the Hong Kong Chinese Consulate?

    Kind Regards

    • Christopher R. says:

      I’m not sure about the consulate, but for visa agencies in Hong Kong, the answer is yes. I checked in person today and the agency also suggested that you need a business card, in addition to standard Z Visa requirements.

  11. John says:

    Hi,

    I’m on a 60 day dual entry visa (30 days each entry) which expires near the end of June. I need to get another 30 days to finish my work assignment (I am working for a US company within Shanghai). I am thinking of using FBT China Visa. The total length of my time needed to be in china is a bit more than 90 days so I’m working remotely in Hong Kong until it’s exactly 30 days left for the dates I need to arrive and leave Shanghai.

    Does anyone have tips to ensure I get the 30 day visa or a company that they recommend I should use. Work is covering the visa costs so I am happy to go through an agency instead of applying directly.

  12. Mary Liao says:

    Hi, A US friend is visiting me in HK and wants to do a trip to Shanghai/Shenzhen. The China consular office site here says that only HKID holders can apply for China visas in HK. Flight Center in HK is telling me that you CAN apply, but as of April 2017 if your passport is issued post Jan 2015, you must also submit your old passport (which he didn’t think to bring). So is there any way at all for him to visit China?

    • Christopher R. says:

      If he has a photo of the personal info page of the passport that will work.
      This is a new rule causing a lot of confusion; we’ll have a post on it in the coming days.

      • Joanna says:

        What if you don’t have your personal info page? I was born in china but am an us citizen now however when I got my us passport I had to give in my Chinese passport

  13. Chris says:

    I just tried to apply via CTS as I didn’t have time to do it in my home country. Unfortunately, I was unlucky and got a rather inapt consultant. She asked me to sign a letter ‘to the China embassy’ in which I declare that my previous journeys to Dubai were for tourism, as I visited the ‘middle east’.
    Long story short, the Chinese government employee got offended by the word ’embassy’ and refused my visa. I had to hand in all the documents again and defer my journey to China.

    Next time I won’t use CTS anymore and rather apply myself again. Then I know at least that it is done right.

  14. Sebastian Levesque says:

    Hi!
    Ill be in HK for 5 days and applying for my Chinese Visa next week I tried applying in Singapore where im a Temporary resident, but they decided to change the rules and am not allowed to apply here now. My goal is to stay in many places across East China for up to 75 days, but dont think a 3 month tourist visa is likely, so will be applying for a 30 day visa and try and extend it somewhere like Guilin or Zhangjiajie. Is anyone aware of whether this is likely? I have a British and Australian passport and have all the documents but haven’t booked anything at all yet. Should I apply for a double entry 60 day visa?

    • Hi Sebastian,

      If you can, try to obtain a multiple entry visa. More than likely you won’t be able to extend your length of stay within China unless you have a real legitimate reason.

      Instead, you’ll need to do a ‘visa run’ and go to Macau or Hong Kong and go back into China the next day. Many people have done this in the past. It’s inconvenient but common practice.

  15. Jordan says:

    Quick question to anyone who has done this recently, did you have to leave your passport with them during the processing time or do you submit everything, pay, get a receipt and then come back with your passport later to get the visa in it?

  16. A says:

    Hi. I’m going to Hong Kong in the next few days to get a Chinese visa. I’ve got Chinese visas before as I’ve lived in china in the past couple years. I currently live in Germany but did not have the time to make a trip to the consulate as it will cost me 2 working days to submit and pick up my passport. Is it still possible to apply for a 15 day visa for china in Hong Kong? I recently read that it’s is no longer allowed to get a visa in Hong Kong unless you are a HK RESIDENT. I have an invitation letter and return tickets as well. Thanks!

  17. blenner says:

    Bang on article. Thanks – saved me HK$1,040. I required four visas (wife & two kids) and a (well known) travel agent quoted me $460/visa vs. $200/visa by going direct.

    A couple of additional bits & pieces to Michael H (21 Feb 2017) above:

    If applying for children (who are HK residents, in my case), you will need the following:
    – child’s passport + copy of the passport
    – copy of the child’s passport immigration stamp allowing your child to remain in HK
    – original and copies (one per kid) of your marriage certificate, if you have one
    – for every child application, they also asked for additional passport copies for both parents, for EACH child’s application.

    Cheers

  18. Nick says:

    YOU ALSO NEED TO HAVE A PASSPORT PHOTO

    Whilst there is a passport photo machine, I had to get visas for myself and my girlfriend. Wasted trip unfortunately

  19. Michael H. says:

    Jan 27: Very informative and well-written article. The directions and recommendations were spot on. I went late afternoon the day before Lunar New Year and it was a ghost town. Very quick.

    I am a Hong Kong resident with a valid work visa and HK ID. And I’m applying for a tourist visa. For supporting documents, however, the clerk required:
    1) Copy of round trip air tickets or ticket reservation record; and
    2) Copy of the hotel booking of the visiting city in mainland China.

    I should have thought to bring both items. Live and learn. Just wanted to flag this since there I didn’t see any specific mention of either supporting document in the article. And the clerk handed me an official printout requiring both supporting documents. Without them, the process grinds to a halt. FYI.

  20. Michael says:

    I would like the name of the most reliable VISA agency in Hong Kong for either a 1 or 2 year tourist or business VISA with multiple entries and 20 or 60 day stay. I have complete documents, but prefer to do this in HK as the flight to the USA is long and expensive. I am a USA citizen and have done the VISA in San Francisco many times but they seem to be very cranky these days. Thanks for any help.

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