2018 Guide: How to get a Chinese visa in Hong Kong

90

One of our perennially popular articles is for travelers looking to obtain a visa to China. The policy changes constantly, seemingly monthly and we’ve updated our previous article about getting a China visa so many times, it’s time for a complete 2018 update! (Comments after Jan 24th, 2018 are new.)

To give you a little bit of background, there is no China Embassy or Consulate office in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is legally part of China, therefore the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will handle visa services for the mainland (website is a piece of rubbish.) But if you say consulate/embassy people will still know what you’re talking about.

Generally speaking, this office is meant to handle affairs for Hong Kong residents. They will almost always ask for Hong Kong identity (HKID) card to provide services, however tourists from other countries can still obtain a visa, albeit more difficultly. Most certainly you will need to have entered Hong Kong legally and have entry paperwork, stamps, etc.

Suggest you read this article in full as there are many particulars.

How to get your visa to China

Few options, namely:

  1. Traditional China visa, for which the application is submitted and visa & passport returned to you before you go to China. (this article.)
  2. Visa-on-arrival available at the Hong Kong / Shenzhen border.
  3. Transit-without-visa available at many airports in mainland China (TWOV)

This article will cover item 1 and the China visa application process has changed quite a bit recently. We want to thank our reader Peter for informing and sharing his experience with the HKTravelBlog community.

Where do I go?

As of January 2018, the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has moved it’s visa processing and is now processed at the following address:

Chinese Visa Application Center
151 Gloucester Road (20th Floor)
Capital Centre
Wanchai, Hong Kong Island

Phone 2992 1999
E-mail: hongkongcenter@visaforchina.org/
http://visaforchina.org

Apparently there are wonderful harbour views from the 20th floor! If a reader can go and snap some pics around of the place we’d appreciate it including the waiting area and facilities such as photo booth and reception area.

Harbour View – Credit: reader David Doré

Operating hours

Monday-Friday only
Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Hong Kong Public Holidays.

Submission of applications and Payment:

  • 9:00 to 16:00.(Urgent service before 12:00)

Collection:

  • Express and Urgent Service: 12:00 to 17:00.
  • Regular Service: 10:00 to 17:00

Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.

Visa application form

You can print and complete the visa application form for the People’s Republic of China beforehand: v2013 is current as of Jan 2018.

Visa photos

Download the photo requirements

You can use the photo booths at the visa center if you so choose, but obviously easier to have it before you arrive.

Application process

Process is fairly straightforward, and as long as you don’t mind the wait times (often many hours), you can get it done yourself there.

Waiting area – Credit: reader David Doré

How much time do I need / best times

I will give you a tip, avoid early in the week if possible. Almost always Monday will be the busiest and wait times will decrease as the week goes on. Apply Wed-Fri certainly will be easier and less crowded. However, you will have to wait past the weekend to retrieve your passport and visa if you use normal 3-day processing.

Also try to go in the afternoon or very early. There will be a queue in the am so if you arrive a bit later than the first bunch, you’ll need to wait awhile. Arriving late morning you’d think would help, but Chinese tend to take a long and extended lunch hour so there’ll be very few window agents around 12pm – 2pm.

Generally speaking if you arrive by 4pm the application center will process your visa unless they get slammed and then they’ll limit the number of applicants earlier based on demand, try to arrive earlier if you anticipate it being busy.

Timing is calculated on the day of submission. e.g. if submitted on Monday, that is day 1. You can pick up 3 days later, on the 4th day, Thursday.

Steps:

[a]Hong Kong Identity Card holders

  • Go to the office and pass through the x-ray scanners. If taking MTR, exit A1 is closest and is roughly a 10 minute walk. Easiest it to talk to Gloucester Road and walk east towards Causeway Bay.

  • Take the lift/elevator upstairs, visa processing is on the 20th floor. Toilets located there and clean too.
  • Fill out the visa form available, 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 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 perturbed 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. Some people have reported friendly clerks. (One clerk told me I couldn’t get a new visa because my old one fell out, due to bad quality Chinese glue, 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 and queue number for payment.
  • Payment is made after visa application submittal. (Payment in the past was done upon collection, this is no more. China wants their money ASAP now.)
  • Pick-up is in 4 business days (3 days later), including day of submission. (e.g. Monday submit is a Thursday pickup.)

[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. Be sure to bring your Hong Kong entry slip with you if you do not receive a stamp in your passport!

You may be asked for proof of return airline tickets and hotel bookings. If headed to Guangdong province, usually you don’t need transportation proof. Feel free to book cancellable reservations.

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.

Important items to note

  1. Turkey: popular topic of conversation. If you have a stamp from Turkey, you may be denied a visa upon application submission. You’ve been forewarned, do not be surprised and bother arguing. Many a reader have been denied because they went to Turkey.
  2. Old / previous passports: if you have a relatively new passport (issued after Jan 2015), especially issued within the last year, and have a previously expired passport…I would highly suggest bringing the old passport with you as China will want to see that and make sure you haven’t gone to any countries they’ve deemed risky.
  3. Appearance: racism and prejudice is alive and rampant when apply for visas to China. If the agent doesn’t like what you’re wearing, your looks, color of your skin, etc.; they will flatly reject you on the spot. Would suggest trying to dress and present yourself as conservatively and nicely as possible if you feel you may be targeted. You can get around this by applying again and try to get a different window agent, but it’s time consuming. Try using a visa agent or apply via mail.

Everyone don’t forget:

  • Visa pricing here. (USA is same price no matter length of visa. Good as of Jan 2018, subject to change at ANY time.) Make sure to look at page too if you country falls under “List of Countries on Reciprocal Basis of Visa Fees”
  • 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.
  • Express and urgent service is available at an additional cost, same-day visas are not available. If you need to visit China urgently, read our article Getting into China Without a Visa, which includes information on same day visas.
  • 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 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.

Using a visa agent

If you want to avoid all of this, you can use an agent to apply the visa for you. They will charge a fee but save a HUGE time & headache. Highly suggested if you can afford to spare the extra bucks. We partner with Asia Visas and many of our readers have successfully obtained visas through them.

There’s plenty of others also in your home country or Hong Kong as well.

Summary

Obtaining a China visa yourself is a time-consuming process, but certainly can be done. Hundreds of people do it each day. It’s a bit easier if you are a citizen from a country that isn’t majority Muslim or on the terrorism radar. It’s sad, but that is how it is currently.

Follow the steps and be prepared to wait, a lot.

There are many comments of reader’s experiences on our previous article linked here. We’ve copied comments from the previous post, any prior to Jan 24th, 2018 are copied from the previous post. Please add your own experiences below to help keep this page current and help other travellers!

Share.

90 Comments

  1. The link to the asian visas doesnt make sense. … It says you have to drop off before 9 am for 2 day service… They dont open until 10 am…..

  2. No, the counter staff are not particularly helpful, as is mentioned in the article. They are abrupt, behave almost like automatons – but that is how they are trained and that is how they work.
    A word to the wise.
    Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, “lose the plot” with them. Keep your cool, smile, ask questions for clarification but under no circumstances argue with them – however difficult that might appear!
    If you do or say anything that would give them the slightest excuse to blacklist you – then that is exactly what they will do and you will never get a visa.
    “Your card is marked,” as they say.
    Follow any advice / instructions they may give; go away, get the “right” paperwork and above all, KEEP COOL.
    And good luck.

  3. How come no one commented about the fingerprint requirement now? Are they not asking for this in Hong Kong now? Supposed to be from Dec 2017.

    From their site:
    “Is it permitted for someone else to submit my application to the Visa Centre on my behalf?
    For applicants age 14 to 70, the first time applying for a Chinese visa since 4th Dec 2017, you must submit both the visa application and fingerprint at the centre in person. If you have submitted the visa application and fingerprint in person since 4th Dec 2017, for the next 5 years you may entrust a third party to do it.

    Print”

  4. They only allow people to get a visa until 4pm. From 4pm-5pm its pickup time.

    Its not 3 days but 4… so i had to pay for an express..

  5. Hi,

    This post is so helpful. Thank you! I have a couple of questions about my situation:

    1. I am in China living with my uncle (who is Irish). I had a 90 day visa from Sept-Dec 2017, returned home to Ireland for Christmas and got another 90 visa which expires at the end of March. I do not plan to return to Ireland until June, as I was relying on being able to get the 90 day visa again. Would an exception be made for me in this case? Or should I try to get a double entry?

    2. Are the staff helpful at the centre? Would they assist me in understanding which visa I should apply for? I have absolutely no plans to stay in China beyond June, my uncle will also be returning to Ireland.

    Thanks in advance for the help!

    Niamh xx

  6. I want to share some mistake I made today so you guys don’t have to make them.
    1. The Chinese id attachment for the invitation letter is supposed to show both front and back side of the card.
    2. Taking picture there is 50HKD, I was lucky to be there early and could change my 100HKD to 50HKD with the worker. The guy behind me wasn’t as lucky.
    3. Needed to print copy of the arrival slip and my passport
    4. You can pay with card, though only with Hong Kong issued cards.
    5. My passport expires 2019-04, so I could only apply for half year visa (2018-03).
    6. Max stay for Q1 visa is 90 days, but multiple entries are allwoed.
    7. Cost 1250HKD in total.

  7. My experience from last week is that it seems even busier than china resources building was, even mornings at the end of the week.

    It also seems they are being very strict on rules. As a hkid holder, I was asked for flight and hotel documents for a tourist visa and to confirm when I had my photo taken. I did not have this experience at the previous office. I was also sent away to redo the form after I had crossed out some mistake on the form. To be fair this was my fault as it wasn’t the most legible but I fixed it in a minute and was allowed to come back to the counter. Unfortunately I had to literally wait about an hour and a half behind a lady trying to get visas for several passports who had gone to the counter in that minute.so (its definitely worth getting the forms completely perfect the first time.

    The visa centre also now strictly follows the reciprocal charge for international passports, so beware your single entry visa might have now become extremely expensive. With this in mind, and as they are generally more strict with what length visa they give you in Hong Kong, I would highly recommend getting the visa in your home country is possible (I believe the lady in front of me was having this problem)

    To give credit, the procedure is quite smooth if everything is done right (but still slow due to the humber of people). You can make copies/print at the printer for $2 each payable by octopus only.

  8. Hi Tam,

    It should be OKay with your friend or agency.
    But as author mentioned and what I can confirm, case by case is differ literally by the staff’s mood and view of your situation.
    Also depends how many CN visas you had before and how long were their peroids

    Wish you better outcome!

  9. thanks for the valuable advise Rumbens!Gosh ,my HK work visa will expire in August so that i means i can only acquire one entry maybe ;(

    rumbens, what if i dont have time to process it and i have an authorized person to do it for me, is that okay? not family but my best friend for which i will just send an authorization letter

  10. Since the Jan 22, 2018 the prices come higher because the have added service fee (even for Regular procedure time it is now +240 hkd to your visa fee). That’s a pity.

    I was applying for a multiple visa (already got one multiple before). The first clerk said that I could not and they only can give half a year because my HK visa will last for the next 7 months… Another clerk said that it is possible to try 2 years (!) now for me, what I initially was expected. Finally, they found me in room saying that 2 cannot be issued because HK visa is shorter than this period.

    Oh yeah, and they didnt accept my photo two times: first, because I was wearing earrings on it (WT???).

    🙂

  11. Hi ! I’m from Philippines working in an engineering firm in HK and I wish to know if should I prepare a ticket from hk-china for my Chinese visa or not? I wish to renew to tourist visa.

    I have been issued Chinese visa in the past (5x trade and business category) and I have a work permit and HK ID.

    I have an invitation letter from my friend in Guangzhou which i intend to visit.

    kindly advise, thanks!

  12. Hi peter,
    i want to renew my chinese visa as tourist and not business.
    i want to know, if i am renewing my chinese visa (i have been issued business chinese visa for 5times already and expiry is yearly which was proceesed by my company), do i need to prepare a ticket for the place i will be going? i wish to visit my friend in Guangzhou and already asked my friend for an invitation letter but i am contemplating if i should prepare the ticket now or book it on the spot in the train station.

    i have an HKID and work visa

    Pls advise. thanks!

  13. Hey I am about to go for my Visa run to Hong Kong around Chinese New Year 🙁 Unfortunately my current visa for travel runs out on the 20th of Feb and I need to get my X1 Visa before the 26th but also allow enough time for getting the residence permit after the 26th. This has left me with a situation as the school states not to enter China and start this 30 day timer until at least after the 23rd. So I plan on going to Hong Kong between the 111th and the 23rd, I am trying to give myself plenty of days to make sure I can get my Visa as I am unsure which days they will be closed for the Holiday. It is my understand that the 16th to the 19th is the stated Holiday days for Hong Kong but a mainland friend has warned me that he thinks it will more likely be closed from the 15th to the 22nd.

    Can anyone give me any advice on this matter or any tips? Could I do a Macau Visa run and make it cheaper? Is Hong Kong my best way to make this as cheap as possible? My home country is New Zealand and that is going to cost me dearly to fly back there to do this.

    Cheers for any help this post may recieve

  14. Thanks for the updated information about this matter. My relatives in HK keeps bugging me to get a China Visa when I get there so they can take me to some nice restaurants across borders. Keep up the good work!

  15. Pingback: How to get a Chinese visa in Hong Kong: 2018 update: HKTravelBlog

  16. Returned to the Visa Centre today to pick up my passport and visa, and it was available after 4 days as promised. Apparently Thursdays are just as busy as any other day – they closed the doors to new applicants by 3pm. Seems they now implement some quota system to manage the large number of people – so if you are applying, play it safe and get in by 2pm or so, just in case… and if you need express service, the cutoff is 12 noon. For my pickup I had 25 people queued in front, so it still took me an hour and half to get my passport back. Good luck!

  17. Great website and very helpful! Just applied for my China visa today and the wealth of information here got me through the day. However, there have been a few changes, so I thought I’d share my experiences:
    1. The “Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs” at the China Resources Building no longer accepts visa applications. As of January 9 2018, all visa processing has been outsourced to the “Chinese Visa Application Service Center” located at 151 Gloucester Road (20th Floor) in Wanchai, within walking distance from the China Resources Center.
    2. The official government website has a notice posted (which is also posted in the lobby of the China Resources Building) here: http://www.fmcoprc.gov.hk/eng/fwxx/wgrqz/t1523852.htm . True to form, there are a few errors on the statement, namely that the effective date is Jan 9 and not Jan 22, and the building name is actually Capital Centre (formerly the AXA Centre).
    3. The processing centre is modern and efficient but expect a loooong wait. Hours are 9am-4pm (no official lunch breaks, but things do seem to slow down between 1-2pm). Doors close at 4pm but if you are in before then, you are pretty much guaranteed to be processed that day – seems the staff sticks around until all the numbers are called.
    4. The process (at least for HKID holders) is pretty much the same as described in your article. A receptionist will do the initial screening by checking your passport and application form, and give you a queue number. I went on a Monday afternoon (might really be the worst time to go) and there were 142 numbers in front of me. Thank goodness for Netflix downloads! The centre also has photo booths and clean washrooms; and good harbour views to keep you entertained. I waited 4.5 hours for my number to be called.
    5. The staff at the processing windows all seem very polite and professional. My clerk reviewed my application for completeness, noted that as a Canadian I could apply for a tourist visa for the length of my passport validity, and proceeded to take my copies of my HKID, passport info, and relevant HK visa/permit pages.
    6. I was then issued another queue number for payment, which took maybe 15 minutes. I paid 630HKD for my visa (valid 7 years, multiple entries, max 60 days per stay).
    7. Passport and visa will be ready for pickup in 4 business days (regular processing), so that would be Thursday, after 12pm. They will give you a slip for the pickup.

  18. Shukling Watkins on

    Anybody else has experience with Asia Visas? I have found no reviews related to their business. Just want to know id they are reputable.

  19. I am an American citizen married to chinese. I got the new Chinese work permit smart ID cards in October. I was under impression that, this ID is sufficient as work ID and residence visa. I had a flight form HK to Dubai and at the border I was told that I over stayed my residence visa by one week and If I leave China, I must pay a fine and apply from abroad for visa to enter again. I had a business trip, so I decided to go to my trip, and I had to pay a $1,000 RMB fine for over stay of one week. Now, I will go back in a week to HK with my already purchased flight. I do have the new work permit ID card, but no residence visa. Does anyone here, could tell me, what is the best way I should do? Do, I apply for Z-Visa, or do I apply for a 30 day tourist visa? should i go directly to the consulate or use an agency?

    • I’d probably go in under a Z visa to avoid any troubles. Seems the most logical since you’re legitimately there and have a work permit.

      Consulate may take awhile, but it’ll be cheaper than using an agent. If you want to go agent route, which is probably easier for you to obtain the visa, you can try our partner asiavisas.com

  20. I got the new Chinese work permit smart ID cards. I was under impression that, this ID is sufficient as work ID and residence visa. I had a flight form HK to Dubai and at the border I was told that I over stayed my residence visa by one week and If I leave China, I must pay a fine and apply from abroad for visa to enter again. I had a business trip and got out of HK border, so I decided to go to my trip, and I had to pay a $1,000 RMB fine for over stay of one week. Now, I go back in a week to HK. I do have the new work permit ID card, but no residence visa. Does anyone here, could tell me, what is the best way I should do? Do, I apply for Z-Visa, or do I apply for a 30 day

Leave a Reply