Chinese visas have been much more difficult to come by in Central Asia since the Beijing Olympics and the unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang provinces. If possible, get your Chinese visa in your home country. Many sites already explain the ins and outs of the Chinese visa, so I will not repeat them. But if you are on the road already, here is what you can expect.
Have a read through all this and decide where you want to try. Bishkek is the easiest. If you fail, flying to Hong Kong is the emergency exit. Hong Kong is smooth as silk: one photo, only the paragraph about your family has to be filled in and 50 euro is enough for a double entry 30 day tourist visa. Shoestring across the street from Chungking Mansions or Forever Bright have a good reputation as tour operators.
Please remember, as the following article shows: rules change all the time!!
Getting a Chinese visa on the road
Astana and Almaty
May 2013: 7 days processing. The visa is for a single entry, and valid for 30 days in the country. For a UK passport holder the consulate needed the following documentation:
- A copy of a bank statement showing I have enough money - Fake hotel bookings - Fake flight into (and out of) China - An itinery for my time in China - Proof of employment - My address and contact number in Astana
A letter of invitation was not required, and the cost was 4300 tenge including the 100 tenge bank charge.
November 2012: Another success story. Double-entry tourist visa, 10 days processing.
October 2012: First day (Wednesday) we went at 9am and put our name on a list and were numbers 41, 42 and 43. The list got to 19 before they closed for the day. We were told to come back on Friday.
We arrived on Friday at 5am and got numbers 16, 17 and 18 on the list as some people had been the night before. By the 10.45am they were at number 8 and so Nina (Australian and freezing in below zero temp) pushed through the people opened the gate, shouted “we have a special case” (our Kazakh visa was running out) and marched in. Moments later she called me and Sam to join her. It felt a bit rude but once we were inside we realised that the queue outside doesn’t move as there are agents inside with 30-40 passports each to process.
Luckily Sam speaks Mandarin and so spoke to the official about what we needed.
We could only obtain a 30 day visa
- We had form 2012a and 2012b
- A flight itinerary (with all our names and stamped by the travel agent) from Almaty to Beijing (FAKE)
- Hotel booking confirmation for a week in Beijing from the arrival date (FAKE)
- An invitation letter from a friend in China (which they didn’t seem so bothered about)
- A copy of her China ID card (which they didn’t seem so bothered about)
- A copy of travel insurance (FAKE)
- A copy of bank account
- 2 passport photo’s
- 4200 Tenge
We presented all of the above but they rejected our photos which were not on a white background. They told us to come back on Monday and advised us that we did not need to queue as we only needed to present photo’s.
We returned on Monday and were called straight in. The man checked everything very carefully. He gave us a payment slip to take to the back but advised us not to pay until we have waited to see if they would call us with any problems by Wednesday. They hadn’t called by Thursday morning so I paid at the bank and we collected our visas the following Monday. Apparently Australians were quick to process but not English.
July 2012: We, two cyclists from Holland, today managed to get a double entry visa (60days) within a week. The same day a French hitchhiker was also able to arrange a double entry visa (60 days) within 10 days. We went to Astana because a couple of weeks ago another guy from Holland was able to get a 30 day tourist visa in one day.
Prices are cheap(42 dollars for our double-entry), you don’t need a LOI. You need flight tickets, hotel reservations, travel insurance, enough money on your bank account. They’ll check all the dates very carefully. But if you can make up a good solid story you’ll be alright and will be able to get visas from the embassy in Astana.
They don’t have English-application-forms, but make a print out for you within 10 minutes. And you’ll have to wait minimum 30 minutes before you can get in (they open at 9 o’clock but they first let the people in that come to pick up visas and agencies, so mostly around 10 o’clock applicants will be able to get in and apply), the embassy closes at 12 o’clock.
Multiply entry wasn’t possible for us or the French guy. Still don’t say you’re a cyclist or entering West- China.
Chinese embassy in Almaty
It is a total mess at the moment at the Chinese consulate in Almaty. Have a look at the pictures in this article and decide if you still want to try.
August 20, 2013: Apparently only single entry 30 day visas are permitted. UK travelers and me had camped out to maintain our positions on the list of Visa customers.
We got inside but embassy told us the website(s’) info is outdated and no longer can the Invitations be replaced by plane tickets(in&out) + hotel booking for all days. They would not allow us to leave our documents and return with an IL, so we need to re-queue for Wednesday opening (more than 200 ppl at embassy; mostly orderly).
Non-USA foreigners must now also get a LOI. LOI cost 5000 tenge, processing time 2 days at the agency across from the embassy.
Swiss man didn’t manage to get it at the embassy a few days before, but engaged a travel agent to get it for him in Astana. Don’t know which ones are doing Chinese visas, but the quotes range from 200$ to 300$, 2 weeks processing time.
Not sure if these people managed to get their visas, waiting for updates…
September 2012: We (two Brits) tried to get a Chinese visa in Almaty this morning. It was all a bit chaotic and not particularly clear who worked at the consulate and who was simply another visa applicant who’d been roped into helping us on the grounds that they could speak a little English.
We were initially told to go away and get a letter of invitation, but as we’d spent last Friday trawling round travel agencies asking unsuccessfully for visa support, we hung around and asked the consulate staff which travel agency they would recommend.
Eventually, after much more standing around, confusion, and asking random people if they could help us, we were taken through to the window where visas are issued. They spoke a little English there and knew some travel agency staff who we assume were there to get visas on behalf of their clients. The visa staff and travel agency staff conferred and we were told the travel agency could procure two Chinese visas for us for 15000 Tenge each and these would be ready in 9 days time.
We hadn’t planned to stay in Almaty that long and were discussing whether to take this offer or whether to go to Bishkek and try for visas there when the visa staff seemed to presume we were worried about the expiration date of our 30 day Kazakh visa. The Chinese visas would be ready on 12 Sep 2012 and our Kazakh visas expire on 17 Sep 2012 so in our mind this wasn’t a problem, but at that point the visa staff said that they couldn’t issue a Chinese visa as there wasn’t enough time left on our Kazakh visa.
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan:
You cannot get a Chinese visa at the embassy, instead you need to go through an agent called Miss Liu. She is located at 142 Chuy Street. From outside you can see: Avia Travel club with a panel with red LEDs for advertisement.
You will need 2 passport photos, but be aware they are a special size = 33 x 48 mm. Get these at one of the photography studios in town
December 2, 2013: 5 day service = $130 for a 90 day visa, 3 day express service = $140 for a 90 day visa
October 23, 2013: Chinese visas are possible again in Bishkek! Travelers were unable to get Chinese visas in Bishkek from August 2013 until now. Head to Miss Liu as before. 1 week processing time now, price is 120$ for a 30-day visa (the maximum you can get), you need to enter China within 3 months.
Chinese consulate in Osh
There is now a Chinese consulate in Osh. No news since October 2013, when it became possible again in Bishkek. Question marks.
Chinese embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Gulyamov Street. Opening hours: 9 – 11 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Visas can be picked up Monday to Friday, on whatever day you have paid for ($100 for next day, $80 for 2-3 working days, $60 for 4 working days). Be wary that the embassy will close for Chinese holidays.
August 2013: Two British cyclists. Documents needed were:
Form 2012a printed double sided. Form 2012b printed double sided Two photos Proof of employment (fake or real) Proof of funds (printed online banking screenshot was fine) Proof of flight over western China (China Southern on Afrosiyob did this for us for free – cancelled after 3 days if you don’t pay) Proof of accommodation booking (booking.com has plenty you can cancel for free) Photocopy of passport and Uzbek visa on the same page Your passport! Makes it hard doing anything in Uzbekistan though! A telephone number and address in Tashkent (we used our hostel)
An Internet cafe on Shota Rustaveli did all the forms and photocopies for us. A guy there speaks enough English.
The cost was $60 each for 7 day processing. Rush service is no longer available.
Crucially, you can only get 30 days and you also only get 30 days to enter instead of the usual 90. Even more crucially, the 30 days to enter start from the day you apply, not collect so you effectively get 23 days to enter.
Arrive early for application and collection. Agents get there early and you may find 20 people suddenly ahead of you as a result. It is a bit of a free for all but single file railings help if you get there an hour ahead of opening. Staff were friendly and polite even joking with us when we forgot to sign our forms.
June 2012: Here’s how one cyclist got his Chinese visa.
- You are not traveling overland or to western china, you are flying to beijing from tashkent and staying in a hotel. You are not traveling to any other country before China.
- Flight booking: this can be done for no fee at China Southern travel agency in Borakat Center next to Kasmanatvli metro and is automatically cancelled after some time if you don’t pay. Make sure your outgoing flight is from Uzbekistan and the flight date is within the limits of your Uzbek visa. A flight back out of China could also help but is not essential. Also make sure they stamp your reservation. It could be useful to ask for a copy for each traveller as you will all be seen individually.
- Hotel booking: Booking.com gives you access to many hotels which you can book and cancel for no fee. I am told some don’t ask for credit card details. check what you book carefully cause some might charge a cancellation fee.
- Proof of employment, a letter on headed paper form your company (real or imaginary) should be enough.
- Bank statement
- 2 photos to very exacting standards, these can be made round the corner from embassy. If you are walking out of the embassy turn right and then take the first right, after that go as far as the next crossroads. The photos are made in a little kiosk on the opposite corner from which you are arriving. Be sure to ask for a white background.
- Photocopies of photo page of passport and Uzbek visa. It’s every man for himself on the pavement outside of embassies and the Chinese one is particularly busy so be prepared to stand your ground if you want to be seen at all. And turn up early as they do turn people away if they don’t have time to see them before 12.
Chinese embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan:
August 2013: Not possible for foreigners.
June 2012: Serbian traveler reported the following: It was quite easy. I got invitation letter from a friend, who lives in Urumqi. She signed, scanned and sent it by mail so I printed it, and although they asked for original i persuaded them that’s not necessary. So, I applied, I explained plan of the trip to consul, and I got visa in 2 days. It costs 50$ for 2 days and 30$ for 7 days of waiting.
Turkey, Iran, Caucasus, Russia
Chinese embassy in Istanbul:
June 2013: Applied in Istanbul through Travel Agency Ligarba. Independent application to embassy by non-Turkish residents appears not possible. I tried calling the embassy but no one picked up.
Need the following : - Application form and form for third country citizen application - Hotel and flight bookings which Ligarba handled - Need introduction letter from your home country embassy which you will need to pickup in Ankara. (Essentially an introduction letter vouching you are a citizen and your passport is valid for travel in China – a very meaningless letter if you have a valid passport !) NZ consul in Istanbul not able to issue this letter but NZ embassy staff in Ankara was very helpful and friendly.
Ligarba seem to have a good relationship with the Consul in Istanbul and they are an authorised agency for Chinese visa application for non-Turkish residents. I tried to ask for double entry visa but Ligarba was unsure if they could get it for me.
Pickup Time : June 2013 Cost of Single Entry Visa = $108US Embassy Introduction Letter : 40 Lira
Embassy of China in Ankara
Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday only, from 9-12. Only with Turkish residency.
May 2013: US citizen with residence permit based in Istanbul. Was asked to hand over passport with application in order to receive visa in exactly one week, unless they called to say there was a problem within that time. They wouldn’t accept a copy, so I gave up as I had to collect my visas from other embassies.
July 2012: 2 British travelers were refused.
Chinese embassy in Tehran:
August 2013: Guess what? The rules have changed. 2 Brazilian cyclists applied for Chinese visa in Tehran and after 4 days got it.
We filled the form in the computer CAPITAL LETTERS and printed front and reverse. Don’t forget to fill with N/A when N/A is applicable. 2 photos; No bank account proof (we had with us); No insurance proof (we had with us); Bookings for our first 30 days (we printed and they took it); NO FLIGHT TICKET NEEDED but they asked and we said that we would only buy the ticket if we had the visa and that we still have 70 days to buy it waiting for a promo. Girl said “no problem”. 90 day visa for US$40 (Pay right across the street. No need for exact change). The girl at the Embassy was very kind and helpful. She speaks great English.
February 2013: Dutch cyclist reports the rules have changed: no more visas for non-Iranians.
January 2013: Everybody needs a letter of support from their embassy. Some embassies don’t mind giving one, others do. The Swedish embassy (also responsible for Brits in Iran) does not give letters of support.
October 2012: From the comments: It’s very easy and reliable to get (myself Australian + UK +Spanish). We didn’t mention we were cycling.
Cost 40USD (For non-US citizens). Time to receive 4 days normally (up to 1 day for rushed service fee).
What they need:
- Application form printed double sided.
- Passport sized photos (not fanatic).
- Letter of Recommendation from home embassy (at least for Aust, UK, Spain). Aust charged me about $12, took 15 mins to receive.
July 2012: 2 British cyclists were refused.
June 2012: From the comments: the process is relatively painless. You have to go to the embassy with the two new forms (V2012.A and V2012.B)typed and printed (you could find a typable version on the website of Chinese embassy in NZ or AU), two pictures (43*33), a hotel booking (some chinese hotels don’t charge fee on hotel.info), a return flight ticket (more difficult. I photoshoped a airfrance.fr booking), your passport, and a letter of recommandation from your embassy.
It’s really easy to get one for french people : just go to the embassy during the opening hours with your passport, enter the door with “Chancellerie diplomatique et consulaire” written on it, explain to the policemen, and he will guide you to the frenchs people section, where you will be offered coffee and asked to fill a form. You’ll have to come back 2 days later to get your letter, but if you look desperate, they may give it to you in the afternoon.
Once you have all this, go the embassy (Darwazeh Dowlat St., metro Tajrish then bus to East) ask to the women at the second desk from the left (she speaks passable English), and pray : if the form is not printed recto verso, or not signed in the right color, or if saturn is not aligned with Jupiter, or aything like this, you will be refused. When i was here, there weren’t any possibility of fast procedures for foreigners, so come back 4 or 5 days later with the pick up form, and the bank deposit receipt (there’s a bank in front of the embassy)(40 USD for frenchs), and pick-up your visa.
if there’s a problem with the forms, you can ask some help to the ladies at the left door, on the third floor of the little building just in front of the bank, on the right : they will be happy to help fee, for a huge fee (150 000 rials for typing the 2 forms, 200 tomans per photocopy) if there’s a problem with the photo, you can go to the photographer in the second floor of the second mall when heading west in the street of the embassy (150m). He will make a kind of professionnal visa photo (he will photoshop your wrinkles, …). 8 for 100 000 rials.
Don’t know how that qualifies as relatively painless though…
Chinese embassy in Tbilisi
June 2012: No visa service available for travelers: you must be a local citizen or a legal resident within the countries. No travel agencies could help.
Chinese embassy in Baku June 2012: No visa service available for travelers: you must be a local citizen or a legal resident within the countries. No travel agencies could help.
Chinese embassy in Moscow
August 2013: The embassy refused to issue the visa on the basis that we had not been resident in Russia for at least 6 months prior to our application.
Chinese embassy in Laos Opening hours: 9 to 11.30 Monday to Friday
July 2012: Chinese visas are issued to independent travellers in Vientiane, Laos. There are strict new requirements, though, which are as follows:
1x copy and original flight/bus/train ticket out of the country 1x copy and original flight/bus/train ticket into the country (this was actually not enforced on me) 1 x copy hotel reservation in China (a Hostelworld cheap dorm reservation will do, that is what we used) 1 x proof of employment (we used some print outs of emails with the respective “employers”) 1 x copy of passport 1 x copy of another ID 1 x picture
they have a photocopy machine and will copy some small stuff for you, but do not expect they will do everything. The consulate is moderately busy. They have express service, same day and two days, and the normal procedures is 4 days ie. drop off on monday, pick up on thursday. When I was there I could not speed up my process as they had some “important business” that not even money could dodge. I overheard upon collection that another traveller was denied this service… so be prepared to wait and drop your passport on a mon or tue. They also have frequent holidays, there is not much to do. I had to hang around Vientiane for 6 days because of a train delay from Thailand and the weekend in the middle. Be prepared and time you visit accordingly.
Chinese embassy in Bangkok
February 2013: We got turned down at the embassy in Bangkok. Letter of employment missing and they required a detailed planning of how we were going to spend our days!!! Although we had hotel reservations and plane tickets, this still wasn’t enough.
Chinese visa extension
Extending a Chinese visa is not so difficult, although it differs from region to region. You can extend your visa once, possibly twice.
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