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.
China Resources Building,
No.26, Harbor Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong SAR
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.
[a] Hong Kong Identity Card holders
- 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.
- 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.