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Obtaining Multiple-entry China Visa for American in Hong Kong

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I'm currently living in Hong Kong and hold a US passport and Hong Kong ID (valid until early-April 2015). I'd like to get a multiple-entry visa for China so that I can make a few trips to mainland China over the next 6 months. I went to a travel agency here (China Travel Services on Queens Road in Central) and they told me that one cannot get a visa for multiple entries unless they already have a China visa in their passport. So, because I've never gotten a visa for China before, they told me that I have to first get a visa for 1 or 2 entries, and then go back to them and reapply for a multiple-entry visa. Is this true or is it just CTS trying to get me to use their services twice and thus pay more money? Is there another agency that others recommend here that might give me a multiple-entry visa right off the bat? If I just apply directly through he government instead of using a travel agency, is that a better option?

Finally, one of my husband's coworkers, who's a Chinese national, advised us to use a travel agency to obtain the visa because he said that doing it ourselves is too confusing (filling out the paperwork etc). Is that true or is it not difficult to do on your own?

Thanks!

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