Applying for a Chinese Visa outside your Home Country
A precursor to this post – Sorry for the lack of pictures. Getting a Chinese visa really isn’t photo-worthy. However, this is quite an informational post, so it’s a good read if you happen to be in Hanoi trying to get a Chinese visa!
We decided to add China to our list of countries when we realized how close its border was to the city of Hanoi, Vietnam. After a little more research, we decided to visit the Yunnan region known for its beautiful mountain ranges and natural wonders because 1.) it is just north of the Vietnam/China border and probably the easiest region to explore from to our location, and 2.) because we wanted the chance to see some mountains! Plus, we found a cheap flight out of Kunming that would take us to Bangkok, and from there we could fly anywhere. Easy, right? Wrong!
For travelers who call the US home, you do need a visa to enter China. After a lot of reading, we knew getting a Chinese visa in a third country (not our home) could be a frustrating and tedious process sometimes requiring you to visit a Chinese Embassy 2-3-4 times if you don’t have all the required documents. Thankfully, we were able to find multiple blog posts from travelers doing exactly what we were doing: applying for a Chinese visa in Hanoi, which was not in their home country.
For those of you interested in what we had to bring with us, here is the list of documents we brought for each person:
1.) Passport (needs have 2 full pages empty, and be valid for at least the next 6 months).
2.) Photocopy of our passport (we had color copies thanks to Zach’s mom, thanks mom!).
3.) Photocopy of our Vietnamese visa – No one told us about this! Thankfully they have a scanner/printer inside the Chinese embassy you can use free of charge.
4.) Form V.2013 – for all applicants, filled out on your computer, no handwritten entries allowed.
5.) Form 2011B – for applicants in a third country, filled out on your computer, no handwritten entries allowed.
6.) 2 visa photos – 3.3×4.8cm I believe, need to have a white background. TIP- glue 1 photo to your application.
7.) Travel itinerary to get to the China border – we were traveling by bus so we just needed a printed confirmation that we had a ticket to the Vietnam border town of Lao Cai. Our ticket was actually to SaPa, but it worked just fine.
8.) Travel itinerary leaving the country – we were leaving by plane so we just printed the travel itinerary from our email confirmation.
9.) ALL of the hotel confirmations for every night we would be in China.
10.) Lastly, a printed bank statement showing we had adequate funds for expenses while in the country. I’ve read it needs to be at least than 10k. I cannot confirm that this is true, but we were adequately funded, no problems there.
PHEW! SO MUCH PAPERWORK!!!
Thankfully, the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi is located near the west side of the Old Quarter. It was about a 10-minute walk from our hotel which was perfect because we knew we had to get there early. Some reported the need to get in line before 5 AM. I was willing to get up that early to ensure we got in, but Zach was not. The Embassy doesn’t open until 8:30 AM, so we arrived around 7:45 AM. This was a mistake. Outside the Embassy is a large grid of small chairs. It is not a line. It is a formation of people, and the first 2 rows of chairs nearest the guard shack are the first to enter the embassy. There were about 10 rows of chairs filled by the time we walked up, and people standing behind the chairs waiting to grab a chair as people moved up “in line”. It wasn’t until about 10:20 AM that we were allowed to enter another LINE (yes another one!) to enter the building.
At this point, the room inside was full. We stood in the new line to enter the building, as one person exits, one person can enter. When you finally get inside, you need to take a number. The room inside is not big. There are about 60 chairs, a small area in the back with pens (people have glue sticks here, so if you forgot to glue your photo to your application ask someone!), and a computer attached to a scanner/printer for you to use.
The first time we got up to the counter, the lady looked at all of our documents then said we needed a copy of our Vietnamese visas. Nothing I read said we needed this. Thankfully, the printer is right there for you to use, so it was easy to copy our visa information, but we had to get another number and get back in line.
The second time we got up to the counter, the lady looked at all of our documents again. The anticipation was killing us, would she find something else wrong? Would we need more? We just spent 4 hours waiting in line to get to this moment, please please please accept our applications!!! And she did! She kept all of our documents, even the passports, gave us a little pink slip, did not say a word, and we left the building. We were shaking from our nervousness, at least I was, exhausted from the anticipation and the waiting, but we were WINNERS!
The pink slip had the date we would need to return, and the amount in US dollars we need to pay on that date. Once your application is accepted it takes 4 business days for them to process everything. We submitted our application on a Thursday, so we had to return on Tuesday. Thankfully, we gave ourselves plenty of time in Hanoi knowing the visa process would take a while, so returning on Tuesday was no problem. Plus, we didn’t want to leave the city without our passports, so we stayed for the next 6 days.
For US citizens, no matter what kind of visa you apply for, whether it be for 1 month, 3 months, 1 year, whatever, the price of a visa is $140 USD. For other nations, it is much cheaper depending on how long you are planning to visit. Knowing we had to pay the full price no matter what, we applied for the 10-year visa. Now we can go to China whenever want, and stay for up to 60 days at a time as tourists for the next 10 years! We don’t have any plans yet, but since we were paying the full amount, why not get the longest visa?
On our pick-up day, we arrived at 2:30 PM. The Embassy is open from 8:30-11 AM every day for those applying, and 2:30-4 PM for those picking up. We arrived, joined the line to enter the building immediately (YAY!), got a number, and waited for our number to flash on the screen. When it was our turn we got up and turned in our pink slip to the lady behind the counter. She showed us our passports, we verified that they were ours. She pointed us to the next window. Here, we paid our $280 USD, they inspected each bill, told us one of our bills was too old, thankfully I had more money on me, they accepted our payment, gave us the pink slip back stamped as PAID, and told us to go back to the first window. We showed the woman our receipt and she handed us our passports. I quickly looked at each one before I left the counter to make sure they were valid for 10 years…they were! The expiry date of 2029! We could not believe we had accomplished it all in only 2 trips! We excitedly left the embassy for the second time heading for China!
Thanks for reading! I hope this helps someone, somewhere, at sometime! And if YOU just got your visa in Hanoi.. and something has changed, let us know in the comments section!
– Leah & Zach