Appropriate Visa for China Visit?
May 13, 2009 6:48 AM   Subscribe

US Citizen traveling to China for business - how do I get my wife an appropriate visa?

Hi - I'm a US Citizen traveling to China for 3 weeks of training for work in August and want to have my wife join me either before or after for a week. I assume she'll need a visa - does anyone know what kind of visa she'll need if she'll be staying for a week? Can we apply for it by mailing an application in or will we have to go somewhere in person? We both already have valid passports - should we be concerned with turn around time for the visas? Any other things we should be considering before we commit to going?
posted by bkhahn to Travel & Transportation around China (12 answers total)
Best answer: She needs a tourist (L) visa regardless of what visa you have. All of your questions, answered.
posted by halogen at 6:57 AM on May 13, 2009

I went to China last year for a conference and my husband came along. I asked for the organizers to send us a letter of invitation. They sent us one single letter for both of us. He applied for the tourist visa (L) and I for the business visa (F). They ended up giving him a business visa as well, although the letter mentioned he was just visiting.

We are Brazilians living in France, by the way, so it might turn out to be a completely different experience for you. The visa was ready in a week, but the queues to apply for it were quite long.
posted by natalinha at 7:29 AM on May 13, 2009

just adding one unspoken point... you will have to go to the chinese consulate, and expect a little slice of what its actually like in china (read: lots of people, no discernable line and a little chaos, all part of the charm!)

enjoy your trip!
posted by chasles at 7:32 AM on May 13, 2009

To add to the experiences, I was in Hong Kong in 2006 and decided to go into China at the last minute. You don't have to go in person to get a visa. A travel agent there took all of our papers and got us China tourist visas the next day. I never saw the Chinese consulate.
posted by vacapinta at 7:44 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: What halogen said. Tourist (L) visa. Specifically read the section on "how to apply"

You can apply in person (if you are near one of the locations) or via an agent acting on your behalf. Once, I was in a bind and had to do mine in person, wasn't bad at all.
Also, there are agencies all over that send someone to wait in line for you. No biggie either way.

As of today, you should be concerned with turn around time for the visa. Thanks to the piggy flu, the rush services are currently postponed, so the turn around time has increased to a min. of 6 days (no more rush/same day service). Maybe you have time, but it's a headache if you're traveling for business and have to give up your passport for 6 days. Processing delay source.

Remember, there's a Chinese holiday at the end of May, which will add another day to the process if that's when you happen to apply for the visa.
posted by MuckWeh at 8:48 AM on May 13, 2009

I've gotten Chinese visas through the New York consulate, but it's easier to use a private visa service. You'll save a little money going to a consulate, but its time-consuming and the consulate can be crowded and chaotic (as has been mentioned). I've used A. Briggs in the past, and they've always been fine for my purposes. In my experience, their processing time is about a week for non-rush service.
posted by frogpondian at 8:50 AM on May 13, 2009

I got my visa to China within 3 days through a travel agent. I live in the Los Angeles area where virtually any Chinese travel agent can assist you with your visa application. I paid $30 for the service in addition to the visa fee. All I did was downloading the application form from the Website (search Chinese consulate Los Angeles), hand it in to the agent with a photo. No need to apply at the Consulate yourself.
Not sure where you are located. If there is a Chinese community near where you are, it's your best bet to let the travel agent handle everything, hassle free and time saving.
posted by dy at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2009

By the way, there is only one application form to fill out. It will ask you to list your purpose(s) of visit. I always choose multiple, Business, Tourist... The visa officer will determine your visa type. You don't need an invitation letter as I never did out of my experience through the travel agent.
posted by dy at 9:07 AM on May 13, 2009

Go through an expediter service for minimum hassle. There is an extra fee involved but it is probably more than worth it. Example site here, but just google it and you'll find others. FWIW, I went through a service to get a Russian Visa and it saved me plenty of time in dealing with a consulate in a far away city.
posted by JJ86 at 9:18 AM on May 13, 2009

Do some research before planning on vacapinta's Hong Kong option at the moment. I used it in 2007 with no problem, and would definitely recommend it. However, in the months before the olympics, there were reports that same-day or next-day services in Hong Kong were halted or put on hold or delayed. With the swine flue, all of the major anniversaries happening now and through the rest of the year (Tiananmen, Falun gong, Tibet, modern China's founding, etc.) security is tightening throughout the country, and it may affect the visa process in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
posted by msbrauer at 4:59 PM on May 13, 2009

I used last year to send away for a Chinese Visa. As MuckWeh said, the swine flu is making the turn-around slower. This service is recommending you allow two weeks to get your Visa, during which time you will be without your passport. Scary, but I and two of my colleagues used this service without problems.
posted by pizzazz at 7:47 PM on May 13, 2009

Please provide more specifics.

For business visas you need an inviting company in China to send an invitation letter. Do you have this arranged already? If not, I don't see why you can't just get a tourist visa. However, depending on how your training is set up, and in which city, you may need the explicit business visa for hotel packages, or venue admittance. How long is your training?

Where exactly are you going in China? This may affect the answers you seek.

I submitted my visa this morning and got a 3 month Tourist visa in 4 hours in Hong Kong. If you are coming all the way to China you may want to consider flying to HK first, then another way into China, partly for visa purposes. I can give more details if you wish.

Keep in mind the 60th Anniversay of the Republic is in October and visas will be hard to get the closer to October you apply for one.

Unless dy above can give specifics showing who he used and what visa he got, don't believe it. You WILL need an invitation letter for a Business Visa. You won't if it is a typical tourist visa.

Your wife will get a 30 day single entry tourist visa, that is the base visa. There is no week long visa (well, technically you can apply for one day visa for only Shenzhen, or a 1 day transit visa for flying out of Shenzhen, but the prices are the same as a 30 day tourist visa anyway).

If this is your first China/Asia visit, you'll likely be better off using an agent in the US. I second, when we get ours in the States we use them.
posted by steppe at 10:04 PM on May 14, 2009

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