If you want to travel to China or if you are already in China and your visa is about to expire, you need a new Chinese visa. The easiest and cheapest way to get a Chinese visa is to travel to Hong Kong on the classic Hong Kong China Visa run.
Why Hong Kong
For just about every situation Hong Kong is the best place for you get a visa if you about to go to China or you are already in China because
-the food is fantastic
-Hong Kong is an ideal place to start your travels in China
-an excellent destination with loads to do and see while you wait for your visa to be processed
-very accessible from mainland China
-most people don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong
-Hong Kong is the easiest place in the world to get a legitimate Chinese visa
The best way to get to Hong Kong depends on how much time and money you have. The cheapest and slowest way is to catch a train to Shenzhen and walk across the border into Hong Kong at the Luohu border crossing. Most people fly into Shenzhen then walk across the border because the flights directly to Hong Kong from China are normally a lot more expensive.
On my last Hong Kong China Visa Run I caught an evening plane to Shenzhen, stayed in Shenzhen overnight and crossed the border the next morning. Arrived bleary eyed at the visa office just after 8am.
China Visa Types Available in Hong Kong
These are the four main types of visas for people wanting to enter China.
Tourist (L) Visa – This is the only visa you can apply for without help from a business, government or school/university. Tourist visas are normally valid for three months.
Business (F) Visa – You need an invitation letter or confirmation of invitation letter from a legit Chinese based business. Business visas are normally valid for 3 or 6 months. 1 year business visas are possible but these are extremely rare.
Student (X) Visa – A 30 day visa that gives students enough time to reach their universities, get enrolled and registered. You need a completed JW201 or JW202 form and an admission letter so you are better off getting a tourism visa that does the same job.
Work (Z) Visa – This is the most difficult of the four visas to get and the one most sought after. You need an invitation letter from an organization that is authorized to employee foreigners AND you need to meet the requirements for a foreign experts certificate. Only useful to people planning to work in China for more than 6 months.
Where to Apply for a Visa in Hong Kong
You have two main choices on where to apply for your Chinese visa. You can apply at the China Visa Office OR one of the many China visa agencies that you find all over Hong Kong. Both choices have their good and bad points that I’ll outline below. Personally I prefer a good visa agency.
China Visa Office – Pros: Cheap Cons: Time consuming, lots of queuing, annoying paperwork
A Good Visa Agency – Pros: Fast, efficient, trouble free Cons: Can be expensive
How to Apply at the China Visa Office
Consular Department Office of the Commissioner Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (what a mouthful) – Chinese Visa Office
7th Floor, Lower Block, China Resources Building
No.26, Harbor Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong SAR
Tel: 852-34132424 (available at 10:00-11:00am, 3:00-4:00pm on workdays)
Opening hours: 9am-12pm then 2-5pm Monday to Friday
Getting to the China Visa Office – Take the subway to Wanchai, leave using the A1 exit then head north through a jungle of towering office buildings until you reach Harbor Road. The China Resources Building will be on your right to the east.
Security & Queues – Queues form early and can be long but move fast. The reason for the queues is the tight airport like security in the lobby that every one must pass through. Food, drinks, cigarette lighters and anything remotely resembling a weapon are not allowed and will be confiscated.
Forms & Paperwork – The visa office is very strict about the forms and paperwork with many people getting turned away so make sure you get this part right. Check at their Visa For China website to make sure you have all the documents you need for the visa type you are applying for.
I suggest you download the visa application here China Visa Application Form, print it, fill it in and take it with you. That way you’ll be ready to fill the visa form given to you on the 7th floor.
Make sure you have the following
-completed application form
-two passport photos with a white or pale background
-your original documents AND photocopies
Once you complete their visa application form, you’ll be given a number and told to wait
The Wait – There will be a digital display indicating how many people are ahead of you and the booth to go to once your number is called. The wait can vary from a quick half hour to over two hours so bring some entertainment.
Submitting Your Application – Once your number is up, you’ll take your paper work to your booth and submit your application. The visa staff will give your application a quick check and if everything is in order, stamp it, hand you a receipt and tell you when to come back to pick up your passport and shiny new visa.
Collecting Your Visa – A standard visa takes 4 working days to process and be available. If you pay extra, you can have your passport and visa back in 2-3 days. The day of your application is counted so if you make your application early in the morning, you can collection your visa the next day. Hong Kong is an expensive place so if don’t want to see the sights, paying extra to leave earlier is much cheaper.
When you go to pick up your passport, show your receipt to the guards in the lobby and you’ll be able to skip the queue. Once you reach the 7th floor, pay for your visa at the cashier then move over to the collections queue which is normally long but moves fast. Once you receive your visa, double check that nothing is wrong. If there is a problem which is unlikely, they can fix it the same day if you have all the correct documentation. If you find a problem after you leave the building, you have to go through the whole application procedure again.
Visa fees – The fee ranges from $200Hk for a single entry tourist (L) visa to $500 for a multiple entry visa.
Best to check fees on their website here Chinese Visa Fees
Before I went to Hong Kong on my first Hong Kong China visa run, I contacted a number of visa agencies and did a lot of research. Nearly all visa agencies are legitimate and can be trusted but most charge too much and take too long. A tourist visa typically takes 3 to 4 days to process for around 450-600rmb and you can get it in 2 days if you pay 800rmb or more.
The best visa agency I’ve found and the only one I use now is Forever Bright. Their website is shocking but they are efficient, reliable, cheap, fast and professional.
Room 916-917 Tower B New Mandarin Plaza
14 Science Museum Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2369 3188
Opening hours: 8:30am to 6:30pm Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 1:30pm Saturday
Getting there – Forever Bright is just a short walk west of Hunghom, the final station on the KCR train from the Luohu border crossing to Hong Kong. Leave Hunghom station via the D exit and follow the foot bridge to the end at Science Museum road. The New Mandarin Plaza building will be just around the corner. On my last visa run I caught the KCR train at Luohu at 7:25am and arrived at Humghom at 8:10am. I was at Forever Bright at around 8:20 submitting my application.
Forms and Paperwork – You only need your passport and one passport sized photo with a pale blue background. If you have a passport photo with a white or light background, they’ll photoshop it for you for $20HK. They’ll supply the visa application for you to fill in. Don’t worry about the application because if you make a mistake, they’ll correct it for you. If you are applying for an F visa, don’t worry about the application letter, they’ll supply one for you.
Their service is amazing and if you have a valid passport and can sign your application form, they’ll take care of everything else of you.
Submitting your application – If you arrive at Forever Bright and submit your application before 11am, you can come back later that afternoon between 1:30pm and 2:00pm to pick up your passport and visa. If you application is submitted after 11am, pick up your passport the next day by 2pm at the latest. This is their basic service and does not cost any extra. NO one else is this fast for processing visas in Hong Kong or even China that I have heard off.
Collecting Your Visa –If you go to their office at 1:30pm you’ll find their lobby is full and people waiting outside in case the passports are ready early. They so reliable you can be booked on a plane out of Hong Kong that evening and not worry about missing your flight. I had a plane leaving Hong Kong at 6:05pm the same day I submitted my application. I collected my passport at 1:50pm and was at the airport by 3pm.
Fees are subject to change so the fees listed below are a guide only
Tourist (L) Visa – $480HK
Business (F) Visa – single entry & 3 months $650HK – double entry & 3 months $850HK – multiple entry & 6 months $2000Hk
Work (Z) Visa – the fee is not set so best to call or email them about the fee
If you have a valid passport, are in Hong Kong for at least a day and have $500HK on you, getting a visa to China is easy.
Update – 1st July 2013 China Visa Changes
From the 1st of July 2013 a series of new Chinese visa laws take affect will change some types of visas, the application time for visas and the penalties for the breach or over stay of visas. I’ve listed below a rough outline of the changes.
There are a lot of uncertainties at the moment on these changes and I’ll keep this section updated as I receive new information.
Changes to Existing Visas
Business (F) visas that allowed a 3 or 6 month stay will no longer be issued and have been replaced by multiple entry 12 month visas that will allow a maximum stay of 60 or 90 days.
Tourist (L) visas can now only be extended once for a maximum of 30 days instead of twice for 30 days
Work (Z) visas are now Z1 visas for over 90 days and Z2 visas for less than 90 days. Z1 visas will probably also need a residency permit.
Residency Permit – You now need a residency permit to stay in China for more than 180 days
New Visa Types
R visas – Visas for highly skilled professionals. R1 visas for residency in China and R2 for short term stay in China (less than 180 days).
Q Visas – Q1 Family reunion visas for children or family of Chinese citizens or permanent residents. Q2 short visit visas for foreigners visiting Chinese citizens of permanent residents
M Visas – The replacement for F visas for visitors in China for business and trade
Changes to Penalties
If you overstay your visa, you will be charged 500RMB per day with a maximum fine of 10,000RMB instead of a maximum of 5,000RMB.
If you register late for a temporary residency permit, you can be charged a maximum of 2000RMB instead of 500RMB
Questions About Getting Your Chinese Visa While in Hong Kong
If you have any questions about applying for a Chinese visa in Hong Kong, please leave a comment below. I’ll get back to you ASAP