A visa is a document that provides conditional authorization for a non-resident to visit a country. It can be revoked at any time. Different countries have different requirements for obtaining a visa. Here are seven things to know about getting an international visa.
Getting a visa for an international trip can be an intimidating proposition. I was so nervous applying for a visa for a trip with Mandarin Journeys to China that I must have checked and re-checked all the steps a hundred times and I was still holding my breath until the visa arrived. Knowing what you need before starting the process can alleviate some of the anxiety. Here are seven things you need to know when applying for an international visa to China.
Where to Get a Visa: There are two ways to apply for a visa, through a visa service, or in-person at the countries Embassy or Consulate. I applied for my visa through My China Visa, which was recommended by our tour operator Mandarin Journeys, but there are other visa services that can help you with your trip. I would recommend going through a visa service, and paying the added fee vs. mailing it directly to the Consulate. Several of the people that went on the trip with me had problems with their visa application. My China Visa contacted them and worked it out, whereas if they had mailed it directly to the consulate, it would have been rejected. My China Visa also alerted me when my application and passport arrived, and let me know when it was shipped, so I could be on the lookout for it in the mail.
- China Visa Application Form: This I downloaded from the My China Visa site. You can use this form whether or not you go through the service. They do a good job walking you through the form and even have a sample form filled out as a guide.
- Include Your Passport: When you send your application in, you’ll have to send your passport with it. This was very difficult for me and seemed unnecessary. Why did they need my passport? I expected the visa to be a separate document, but it was actually just a piece of paper that was attached to one of the pages of my passport. In addition to the physical passport, include a photocopy of the passport. While you are making copies, keep one for yourself and send one to someone that isn’t traveling with you as a back up. In addition to the passport, you’ll need to include a passport type photo with the application.
- Proof of Residency: To secure your visa, you’ll need to prove where you live. This can be done through a driver’s license, or state issued ID card, as well as a utility bill. Children can use their parents ID.
Travel Arrangements: To secure a tourist visa, you need to send a copy of your round-trip airline reservation AND your hotel reservation. If you are traveling with an authorized tour company like Mandarin Journeys, have them draft an invitation letter to include with your application. If you are visiting someone, they must provide an invitation letter, as well as their Chinese ID or passport. The letters of invitation must include specific details, which an authorized tour company should include without issues.
- Timing: Leave 8 – 10 days to ensure you get the visa back in time. Mine came quickly, but there were no issues with any of the documentation. Leave extra time in the process in case there are problems.
- Visa Costs: Getting a visa is similar to getting a passport. There are fees involved and they can add up. In addition to the visa application fee, there is a service charge if you go through an application company. Plus, you’ll need to get a passport type photo, and pay for a traceable delivery method since you’ll be sending your passport with the application. The visa application and service fees vary based on the type of service requested, but all total, mine was close to $300.