HKTravelBlog

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

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.

Update December 2018: several readers have told us that applications must now be accompanied by a print out proving accommodation for all nights you propose to spend in China. Typically this could be a hotel reservation, but if you plan to stay with friends you will likely need an invitation from them and may need a copy of their address proof/visa or passport. If you do not want to go through this – for example because your itnerary is not fixed – you will likely find it easier to use a visa agent  who may be able to navigate the accommodation details requirement for you,

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!

108 comments

Leave a Reply

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • OK, so fresh experience. The form above (2013) is the right one, just make sure your PDF reader or printer won’t screw up the Chinese signs, otherwise you will be asked (not kindy of course) to fill it again.
    Also the passport photograph has to have A WHITE BACKGROUND. Mine from Europe was blue-to-white gradient, no chance with that. Get scan of your passport data page and the visa page that includes your entry note from HK immigration (as someone said – get copies of everything, otherwise you have to do them there for 2 HKD each). Yeah and don’t bring food or bottles with you, you will have to leave them outside in front of the security check.
    Apart from having to take the photographs there (50 HKD) it went pretty well. Got there on Monday morning, the clerk gave me a number dispite one lacking scan so that saved me some time, still like an hour waiting time (60ppl before me). The lady at the desk was no fun, she just returned a bunch of papers to me (including financial statement? dunno why) which were of no use to her, told me to get new photograph and come back to her, so I didn’t have to wait again.

    • Glad to hear you were able to get your visa. Thanks for details on the photos. Regarding the financial papers, I’ve never had to give them any financial information when I applied. And as you know, the reps are this office are a beacon of customer service and friendliness. 😛

  • Hello! Please help! hahah

    I accepted a ESL job in Shenzhen and got my documents in order. My Educational Company addressed the Invitation Letter for Chinese Work Visa to the wrong US Chinese Embassy and is invalid. My Educ Company said to show up in HK and I could easily get into Shenzhen. Is this correct? Please, please respond.

  • Hi I’m a Jamaican who lives in USA with a green card. I am currently in China but want to visit HK for a friend’s bday and return back to China. However I only have a single entry. Do you think it is likely I will be granted a visa to return to China if I apply with business invitation letter from a factory?

  • hi i am paddy from India +919811172728 my chineese visa was rejected 4 time reason cannot confirm purpose of visit it was really surprise although i travelled china for my business 6-7 time and my multiple 6 month visa expired 2 weeks ago i travelled to hongkong and applied visa by FBT forever bright visatrading ltd.New Mandarin Plazatower B,14 science museum road east kowloon and i got my chineese visa 5 days single entry from there

  • This is a very good article. Helps a lot, i was struggling the past week or so. even wrote to the consulate and got back an irrelevant response. Don’t we need to take a prior appt for visiting the VISA centre?

  • A heads-up for HKID holders – I renewed my HK work visa last Friday and then popped across the road as usual to apply for a 1 (or 2!) year multi-entry. Never a problem before, but this time my application was refused because I did not have a permission letter from my employer for leisure travel to mainland. I’m a “normal” expat, not a domestic helper. That’s a new one on me! I was also told that the “old” way of just writing intended destination as Shenzhen for shopping/ sightseeing is no longer sufficient; I need to put in exact address(es), even for a day trip … yeah, right …
    Maybe it was just the lady at counter 5, but hope this can help somebody else be prepared.

  • I am South African and I am currently on a work visa in China which expires on the 4th of September, I have been offered a job in Shenzhen starting on 1st October, will I be able to get a z working visa in Hong Kong?

  • hi, I just heard for trip to Shenzhen from HK cannot use visa on arrival again.
    is it true?
    I’m from Indonesia btw

    thanks

  • Hi there!

    Just want to know, do they still need to keep your passport with them for inserting the new visa?

    Thanks for giving updated information for all the clueless people out there, myself included!

  • Is it possible to get a visa to china like visitors visa am just working in hongkong and wants to visit china for vacation is it hard to apply for visa what are the requirements

  • Just to let you know that the forms you can download from their website are wildly out of date (as is most of the website!). Better to get forms when you arrive. Best of luck!

  • A temporary HKID is fine, but one time I went one lady wouldn’t allow me to get a China visa past my HK visa which expired last that year…which is retarded….

    Then I went again and they let me get one. Not sure which country you’re applying for, but US citizens get 10 year visas now, so no HK visa will ever be that long.

    Really depends on the person you get and the mood they’re in per my experience.

  • Hi, Great tips, thankyou! Question – is a temporary HKID card enough (the paper form they issue you first), or do you need to wait for the permanent card (2-3 weeks later)?
    Thanks!

  • Hey just wanted to make an update as of today. I applied on monday morning at forever bright agency in hung hom new mandarin plaza for a 6 month multiple entry visa. Each stay 30 days. It cost me 800 hkd and was ready thus day lunch. Great service. Fast efficient. I’m german passport holder with hk id.
    Good luck to everybody.

  • 1 piece of advice… Count on at least 3 visits… All the information and forms on the website are out of date… Complain to them and they just say that the website is not theirs and it’s all google’s fault… New forms… ever-changing paperwork and requirements… surly clerks… just go elsewhere and don’t bother providing them with a tourist income.

  • I am an American residing in Hong Kong for the past 5 plus years. September 2nd, 2015 went to CTS in Central to apply for the 10 year US Visa. Queried the price a few times but was told over and over again ‘this is the current Visa price.’ Since I had 3 past visas to China in my passport (obtained them from China immigration) I figured the price went up. So 3 of us applied at 2560HK$. Please, please do not go to them. CTS charged us over US$170 handling fee when you can get the visa for US$160.00 or cheaper. Go and spend the time at immigration its even cheaper still. I wrote a complaint letter but the Managing director of CTS in Hong Kong passed the buck to a Branch manager who did apologize but said they can not return any money & are not told the handling fee. Very misleading & misrepresentation!

  • Hi. Thank you so much for this site.

    URGENT IMPORTANT TIP: the official form has changed. The Visa form on the commissioners site is OUT OF DATE. You have to get the form directly at the Visa office.

    It doesn’t seem to be available anywhere online. If your site could
    Post it that would save a lot of people trouble!

    I tried to get the visa over my lunch hour during work and I would’ve been able to do it except I spent 30 minutes filling out the wrong form that I had downloaded instead of filling out the one that they had at the office.

  • Hi I am from Netherlands. Had to go to china for urgent factory visit. Applying in home country was not possible because of rush. So decided to apply in HK for visa. The biggest visa agency CTS is informing everybody that getting a visa for Dutch citizens takes at least 4 days. This was not possible for me. I had to find a way to get my visa next day. Although everybody is recommending CTS I went to Chinavisaking (www.chinavisaking.com). Met a guy named Lik Cheng (wechat: likcheng). He just made it possible to arrange my visa next day. Yes I had to pay the price for it. But the next day visa was more important. So this agency is very good alternative for CTS. Success.

  • hi there
    it is really nice article and shows allot of effort.
    however according to the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, it says the following: ( If you don’t reside or work in Hong Kong permanently, you are required to apply Chinese visa from the Embassy or Consulate-General of Peoples’ Republic of China in your resident country.)
    are they strict about that?
    according to your two weeks old article it seems not!
    can you confirm that?

    • Yes, they are strict but they will let you still apply if you have some “good reason,” whatever that may be. I’ve seen people who are not HK residents be both denied, and approved, so I can’t tell exactly what the requirements are. Really depends on the clerk you speak to that day, their mood, and how strict they want to be. I suggest smiling and being really friendly.

      My advice, apply outside of HK if possible. Even I have problems at times as a HK resident. When I go back to New York and apply there I never get a questioned and always receive a 1 year multi-entry, each stay 90 days max. HK office sometimes doesn’t even want to give me a 1 year multi and will limit each stay to 30 days.

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