I need a visa for China asap...am I screwed?
August 19, 2009 2:00 PM   Subscribe

I messed up big time here...I have my passport and ticket ready to fly to China on September 15th. I do not have a visa.

I am confounded by all the websites and busy lines and non-returned calls.
Apparently my reading comprehension is slipping because I can make no sense of the information I do find.
Making things even more pathetic, I have been to China many times before and handled it with relative ease.
So. I am now in Southern California. But my residency is, I suppose, in SC. Or Maryland. I get mail at three locations. My driver license is a CA one. I have lived in SoCal about 2 months. I do not consider myself a resident. How do I find out what embassy I am even supposed to go to? Is it remotely possible to get the visa in 3 weeks from tomorrow? Would you recommend I pay a third party to do this?
I'm a deer in the headlights here, frozen by my own ineptness. Can you help?
I will be going out shortly, but will return to answer any question that I may not have addressed.
posted by dawson to Travel & Transportation around China (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just go to the nearest consulate and bring your passport and all other forms of ID that you have with you. Bring a trip itinerary. Go early to avoid the inevitable line up. That should be about it.
posted by dobie at 2:08 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think I had to wait a week for mine (in Canada, but can't imagine a huge difference). Went to consulate, filled out form, surrendered passport, plus form, plus some money. Came back a week later to get Visa.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:14 PM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: Um...I am told, by friends who may not really know, that I must go to 'my' consulate, the one that corresponds to my address, rather than just any one. And I'm pretty sure it takes more than a few weeks to get the visa. Or hopefully my friends and I are wrong? If only their were a number I could call...
This is encouraging so far.
posted by dawson at 2:16 PM on August 19, 2009

go to the closest one, they'll know for sure. it's a federal thing though, so i'd think it would be weird if they couldn't. what if you were on a multi-leg trip already?
posted by rhizome at 2:21 PM on August 19, 2009

My SO has been to China on business a number of times, and I vaguely remember her paying for expedited VISA service. Also, she was living in LA at the time, but was able to get a VISA at the consulate in SF. I would go to the nearest consulate ASAP and see what they can do for you.
posted by c*r at 2:22 PM on August 19, 2009

One other thing. You can download the Visa Application Form here. That's for Los Angeles, but I don't think the form is consulate specific. You need at least one colour passport photo (I think it might be two) as well.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:25 PM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: If this is indeed true, and it seems to be, would they mail the visa to me? Or would I have to return in person? Again, this is the Chinese government, not American.
Thanks for the link backwards guitar, at least I do have passport photos...
posted by dawson at 2:31 PM on August 19, 2009

Los Angeles Chinese Embassy says no appointment necessary, 4 day processing time, quicker if you pay $20.

Nothing on there about residency requirements (seriously, that's wacky, why would the Chinese care where you live in the US? Unless perhaps you were applying for citizenship, and even then).
posted by Happy Dave at 2:32 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dunno about visas, but I just (about a month ago) used American Passport Express to get an expedited passport in appx 1 week. And per their website http://www.americanpassport.com/ they do visas too.

Your Congressman's office might be a useful resource, too... I had to have a staffer from McCain's office call the Miami State Department office, and sure as shit they broke my passport loose immediately.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 2:34 PM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: You can go to any consulate. The application needs to be made in person, but it can be made by someone acting on your behalf. There are companies that specialize in this.

I posted this question a while ago; I eventually went with China Visa Service Center to get my Visa. It was reasonably price, they turned it around quickly, and I didn't have to go to the consulate or navigate bureaucracy myself.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:34 PM on August 19, 2009

Instructions from the SF embassy. FAQs.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:36 PM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry, I worded that last bit poorly, I have 7 very nervous Chinese hovering about...which is not helping me. But at least I see hope now...
posted by dawson at 2:36 PM on August 19, 2009

It's worth noting that the LA consulate only accepts payment in cash, money order, or bank check, no cc's or personal checks, so you'll need to plan accordingly.
posted by c*r at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I think my friends have overreacted, which made me freak a little. The phone numbers...there is no actual human that I can reach. I have tried the last 3 days and left messages. But this looks very doable. I didn't recall it being a hassle before.
posted by dawson at 2:40 PM on August 19, 2009

VisaHQ. It'll cost you, but it's worked in the past for me.
posted by jasondbarr at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2009

I didn't recall it being a hassle before.
Been a bit of tightening up and general added bureaucracy in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic (Oct 1). Has made renewing visas here more of a hassle than usual too, with many unable to get long-term extensions past National Day. Might be a factor your end too.
posted by Abiezer at 3:05 PM on August 19, 2009

We often used expediters at my last job, since a lot of times our trips to our Chinese office came up a little last minute. Costs a bomb, but you just hand your passport and some paperwork (which they give you, and usually walk you through filling out) to someone and a few days later they bring it back to you with a visa.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:14 PM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: thanks for all the excellent answers, I'll update in a few days hopefully. Think I'll go the 3rd party, expedited route with this one...
posted by dawson at 3:54 PM on August 19, 2009

I knew blogging would come in handy...on December 18, 2007, I spent the morning assembling paperwork and going online to figure out how to get my boss's son a visa for traveling to China for a junior semester abroad. We sent everything by FedEx with a large chunk of change to a third party in New York City, who then goes and stands at the consulate to get the visa.

I know that the visa arrived in time, because the kid went to China, but I don't remember when he left. It was some insanely cut-close time, like after Christmas but before New Years.

So your plan should work.
posted by Lucinda at 4:32 PM on August 19, 2009

My buddy just got his visa like 1 week before he departed. He got to the DC consulate when it opened, paid his $49 for rush processing, and had it the next day I do believe. The DC consulate is only open on strange days though, he almost made the trip in vain at least once.

It can be done!
posted by TomMelee at 4:47 PM on August 19, 2009

If you're not in a major city with a PRC Consulate, My China Visa turned one around for me in 2 weeks. they have rush service that is pricey, but can probably get it done in a few days.
posted by markovitch at 5:37 PM on August 19, 2009

Are you just going for a tourist visa? I got one for China in a week or less through A Briggs.
posted by srah at 5:39 PM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: thanks again for all these wonderful suggestions, I have downloaded the forms to fill out and will call some of these places tomorrow and have it expedited via a professional company. what a relief this has been. askme is so cool...
posted by dawson at 6:02 PM on August 19, 2009

Just as a data point -- earlier in the summer I had to go to China on 6 days' notice and had no visa and an expired passport. Timeline:
Monday: Boston passport office (in person), got brand new passport 3 hours later, in mail to China Visa Service Center that day.
Tuesday: Passport arrived in Houston, was at the consulate by 10am, by 2pm I had an email with a FedEx return tracking number.
Wednesday: Passport shows up 8:30am.

I cannot properly express my newfound love for the folks at both the US Passport agency and CVSC. I don't recommend doing it this way (ridiculously nerve-wracking) but it's nice to know there are people who can save your butt if you need it.

From the research I did then, CVSC won all speed contests. The Houston consulate (then, maybe still now) had faster processing times and was still doing same-day service when NYC and DC had instituted 4-day H1N1 delays.
posted by range at 7:41 PM on August 19, 2009

Response by poster: The simplicity of solving this was astounding...as mentioned above, I used MyChineseVisa.com...the cost for any visa is set by the PRC at 130 USD (for Americans), I sent the paperwork, which took under 10 minutes to download, print and fill out, and my passport... sent it 2 day express via FedEx... in less than a week, including the weekend, I had the visa in hand, all for under 200 $...I'd pay the extra 60 just to avoid the hassle...highly recommended.
posted by dawson at 12:11 PM on September 11, 2009

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