Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Asia (
-   -   Obtaining the China visa (

easywalker Mar 22nd, 2006 06:12 PM

Obtaining the China visa
As many readers here periodically ask about getting a visa for visiting China, how to go about it, where to go, how long does it take, is it difficult or time-consuming etc. I am posting my experience here as a current reference.

I live in New York City, and went in person to the China Embassy (to the United Nations) located in Manhattan at 520 Twelveth Avenue at W. 42nd Street. I chose a Tuesday so as to avoid the Monday rush and I went near noon so as to avoid the morning rush.

When I arrived near the corner of Twelveth Avenue and W. 42nd Street close to the West Side Highway and the Circle Line, little by little I began noticing Chinese persons here and there walking along and I also saw the red velvet-type ropes for crowd control, so of course I knew I was in the right place. The entrance door was clearly marked, and the security guards were on duty. There was a security guard service present with a metal detector in the building vestibule.

After passing through security I entered a large somewhat modern waiting room with a ticket dispenser and several teller positions at a counter. All signs by the way are in Chinese and English.

The building houses the China Embassy, the consular section for Chinese citizens needing passport assistance and such, and the visa section for persons wishing to visit China.

Once I took my number I sat and waited a few minutes. I had already downloaded the forms and completed them at home, so I was free to gaze around and take in the scene. There were probably about 50 or so persons in the waiting room: three or four other Westerners like myself, the balance Chinese-speaking persons. Most were simply waiting, so I imagine they had appeared earlier in the day and paid the 'same day' surcharge.

When the time looked right I went upfront and stood for a few moments on line. When my turn came, I gave the counter clerk my passport, a photo taken earlier in the day, my completed form, and the dispenser ticket.

The counter clerk gave me a receipt and said "Visa ready on Friday; Pay when pickup." I smiled and said "Thank you," and received a fabulously friendly smile in return.

Total time elapsed within the building: perhaps 15-17 minutes.

When I actually return on Friday to retrieve my passport + visa, I shall post the finale.

p.s. on the day on my visit, the President of Taiwan was in New York visiting Chinatown. There did not seem to be an extra security presence as a result.

rhkkmk Mar 22nd, 2006 06:54 PM

seems simple enough...can't wait for fridays report....cast of thousands??

twofortheroad Mar 23rd, 2006 10:20 AM

Thanks for the details. What forms did you need? The Q-1 form, "Visa Application..." seems obvious, and so does the photo, but did you also need the Q-2 form, "Physical Examination..." which has to be signed by a doctor?

easywalker Mar 23rd, 2006 11:48 AM

I was applying for a single entry visa, class L, for tourism, travel, sightseeing, etc. I needed only the Q-1 form, no other forms.

travelgirl2 Mar 23rd, 2006 03:24 PM

Thanks easywalker. We are going to need visas soon. Can you do this by mail or does it have to be in person? This may be a dumb question, as I haven't started researching this yet...

Kathie Mar 23rd, 2006 03:39 PM

You must do it in person, no mail visas for China. You can also have an agent do it for you.

easywalker Mar 24th, 2006 09:59 PM

Finale: I had earlier gone in person to the China Embassy in New York, on a Tuesday, to drop off my passport and completed visa request form.

Today being Friday, I returned to the Embassy to pick up my passport and pay for the visa. I scheduled my arrival for after lunch, at about 2:00pm. When I approached the building, I saw at least 20 persons lined up to enter. However, those of us picking up visas were permitted direct entry without waiting on line.

Once in the room, I thought I'd faint: at least 75-90 persons jammed into the waiting room all speaking at once, loudly. I thought for sure I'd be there until midnight.

Anyway, I found my way to the pickup window. There were two of them, but poorly marked with small print signs. There were only 2 persons ahead of me; the line went quickly. After the counter clerk retrieved my processed passport, she handed it to the next clerk whose line I went to stand on. Again, only 2 or 3 persons ahead of me.

At the payment window, I paid for the visa. Cash in U.S. currency was accepted, as well as Visa cards, Master Card, etc. Within a moment, I had a receipt, a charge slip, my passport and the China visa within. The visa itself is exactly as large as an entire page within the passport and indicates the expiration date for entry into China: three months hence.

Once out on the street, I checked my wristwatch: time elapsed was about 20 minutes. Not bad, actually, for dealing with a civil service bureaucracy.

If any readers have a question, I'd be glad to help out. Happy travels, all!

beautiful_b_c Mar 26th, 2006 09:25 AM

while on this topic, does anyone know the reason why different nationals are charged different rates for a one-entry visa - e.g. one from an Asian country pays a fraction of what one from the u.s. or u.k. pays.

Kathie Mar 26th, 2006 09:36 AM

Yes, all countries that charge for visa do that. Often, they have reciprocal agreements with some countries (if you charge our citizens just $10 to enter, we'll charge you citizens just $10 to enter).

easywalker Mar 26th, 2006 08:06 PM

Actually, the visa charges are "retaliatory." I think that word truly conveys the right flavor, in view of Washington's behavior in these matters.

Neil_Oz Mar 26th, 2006 09:20 PM

I've wondered about the discrepancy too. Last time I looked the charge to an Australian citizen for a Chinese tourist visa was AU$30 (US$21) - but Australia charges everyone (except New Zealanders, who don't need a visa) AU$70 (US$49). As China is our New Best Friend you'd think we'd reciprocate, wouldn't you?

travelgirl2 Jun 5th, 2006 08:04 PM

Hi easywalker. I got our Chinese visas today. I hope you don't mind if I add my experience to your thread...

I went into New York City to get visas for our family of 4. Class L for tourism, so we each filled out a Q-1 form and signed it and attached a 2x2 passport photo. I wanted to accomplish everything in 1 trip, so we paid for 1-day rush service ($30 extra, in addition to the $50 visa fee).

Due to technical difficulties in printing out the passport photos this morning, I was too late to take the train into the city. So I braved the drive. 2 hours. Parking was a challenge. The Consulate is at 42nd St and 12th Ave. I found parking across the street (42nd St), at River Place I (across from the Atelier Residential Condos). Parking was $17 for up to 12 hours.

I arrived at the Chinese Consulate at 10:25 am. I had trouble finding the entrance. It is on 42nd St, with just 1 guard standing outside and just a small sign. Today, there were no ropes and no other people (except for the protesters across the street). I tried to walk around to 12th Ave and saw a small sign directing me back to 42nd St. You had to show your passport to enter and then had to go through a metal detector and screening machine for your bags. There was no line, so I went straight in.

Inside, there was a guard standing at the machine which prints up a timed and numbered ticket. You take a seat and wait for your number to show at one of the drop-off windows (#2 through 5). I waited 30 minutes for my number. But, what? Wait, they skipped my number! Yikes. So, I went to the information window (#1), where there was no line and he immediately took my paperwork and gave me a pickup form and said to come back after 2 pm.

I took a cab ride across town and went to the Museum of Modern Art. I didn't know they have Van Gogh's 'The Starry Night' there! And had a quick Thai lunch. (I love ethnic food and there isn't too much of that around us, as compared to NYC.)

Went back to the Consulate at 2:20 pm. Again, walked straight in, going through security. There was a machine inside where you could scan your receipt to see whether your visa was ready. I scanned and mine was ready. Pickup forms are turned in at windows #7 or 9. So, I got into line (1 person) at window #7 and turned in the pickup form. She gave me a plastic card which had a number and window #8 printed on it. She pointed to window #8. (Payment is made at window #8 or 10.)

I got in line at window #8. The line was 6 people long. It took 10 minutes. I paid with a credit card. In all, pickup took me about 15 minutes.

Very easy. Extremely efficient. 30 minutes for dropoff and 15 minutes for pickup. On a Monday. (The website recommends that you come on Wednesday or Thursday and between 9 and 10 am to avoid lines.)

Can't wait to visit China!

kudzu Jun 6th, 2006 12:44 PM

"Retaliatory" is right. The regulation reuiring one to go physically to a consulate or have an agent do so came right after the US government started requiring Chinese to go in person for theirs. It certainly raises the expense and hassle factor for those of us who don't live near a city with a consulate!


Neil_Oz Jun 6th, 2006 02:15 PM

It can't get any easier than here in Canberra. Drive past the permanent encampment of Falun Gong picketers into the parking lot of the resplendently ornate Chinese Embassy, park a few metres from the side-door entrance to the visa section, walk up to the counter - seldom a line of more than one or two people - leave your papers, pay your $30 (US$22.50) and come back a few days later - or pay $60 (US$45) for same-day service.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:33 PM.