People wishing to visit China as a tourist will generally need a tourist visa. For many people, the nearest embassy or visa centre will be in another city, or in another country altogether. There is a solution to this, which is to arrive in China through Hong Kong (visa free entry to Hong Kong is available to 150+ countries) and apply for a Mainland Chinese visa in Hong Kong.
The Chinese tourist visa application, officially the “L” type visa can, at times, seem confusing. But with the right preparation and understanding, it is actually quite easy to get a visa for Mainland China in Hong Kong. In fact, applying for a Chinese visa in Hong Kong may be the easiest and quickest way you could do it. They have all the resources necessary in one room ready for you to get a visa for Mainland China in Hong Kong.
Be aware that you will have to give them your passport whilst your application is processing, so make sure you do not need it during these few days. For example, you won’t be able to make a day trip to Macau.
So what preparation should I do to Apply for Chinese Visa in Hong Kong?
Before you apply you should have a good idea of some of the things you are likely to do or, at the very least, an idea of the most likely plan for the time you are in China. This does not have to be final or definite but the application centre will need to be convinced that your plans are genuine.
You should have the following information with you
- Your passport (of course)
- An approximate plan of the dates and destinations you have planned whilst you will be in Mainland China.
- Your broad plans for each destination, if just tourism just to say “sightseeing” should be enough.
- Your entry and exit points for mainland China including a booked ticket for arriving and leaving China.
- One passport-sized photo with a white background
- Proof of hotel bookings which align with the above-mentioned plan.
- Be ready to answer questions on how you will get around (bus, plane, etc.)
- Bus and train tickets are much cheaper and very easy to buy when you are in China, the clerk will understand that you do not want to buy all tickets in advance.
Tip: The Visa Application Centre specifically says that you should not make non-refundable bookings before a visa is issued to reduce the risk of losing money. However, this is a contradiction since they will expect proof of your plans. Our solution was just to book everything with free cancellation.
What we brought with us
- A spreadsheet detailing all 30 days of our trip and which city we would be in – we plan our time in spreadsheets anyway…
- Anticipated accommodation for each night
- All accommodation was booked in advance on booking.com (affiliate link) offering free cancellation.
- Booked train ticket from Hong Kong to Guilin (Our first day)
- Photocopies of our passports and Hong Kong visa waiver receipt (the small ticket they gave us when we arrived at immigration in Hong Kong)
- Flight confirmation for leaving China from Beijing
It may seem like a waste of paper, but you will need all of the above printed out once per visa application and ready for inspection, they will go through each page one by one and look for the correct names on the bookings and that the dates match up with your plans.
What to expect on the day
Visa Application Centre: Apply for Chinese Visa in Hong Kong
Many cities around the world, have Visa Application Centres. These are not the embassy itself, but official centres which can assist in applying for your visa and they perform the administrative work to have your visa approved and issued.
Note: you will have to leave your passport whilst they process your application, up to 3 days.
Hong Kong’s application centre is well known for being large, efficient, clean, modern and providing all the resources you might need to apply for a visa. It is (September 2019) located here: 20/F, Capital Center, 151 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. It didn’t feel appropriate to take any photos in there, but there are some on google maps already which show exactly what the room looks like, the view from here is actually really nice. There are signs to explain everything in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and maybe a few other languages.
Facilities at visa centre
- Printers – need octopus card to pay (about 5 HKD per page)
- Photocopiers – need octopus card to pay (about 5 HKD per page)
- PCs with internet – free
- Photobooth for passport photos – 50 hkd for 4/5 photos
- Application forms – just bring a pen
Tip: You can buy an “Octopus card” in nearly all metro stations and convenience stores. They will save you money and time on most public transport and can be topped up wherever they can be bought.
Step by Step guide to get a Chinese Visa in Hong Kong Visa Application Centre
Step 1: arrive and get ready for pre-check
When you leave the lift and arrive you will be greeted at the door and given a numbered ticket, there is a queue for those who turn up and a separate process for those with an appointment (make an appointment it will save you time). They will ask you if you already have everything ready. If yes, they will assign you to the next worker who will do a “pre-check” of your materials. If not you will be pointed to the available resources to print, scan, etc. then you can return to the doorman to be assigned for your first check.
When we arrived we first had to fill out the application form before joining the “appointments” queue. They had plenty available and also helpful guides on how to complete the document!
Step 2: Pre-check of documents
Sit down with the initial clerk. They will point out any initial issues with your documents straight away and if you are lucky and prepared you will be given a numbered ticket and sent onto the official window to submit your application. Otherwise, they will point to the areas that need enhancement. Names missing from documents, non-booked tickets and too basic of a plan are the most common issues here.
Step 3: Official review of documents
You will be given a numbered ticket. Once your number appears on the monitor, go to the window. This staff member will do a very detailed review of all your plans, bookings and application form. You may be asked a few questions and asked to make some minor amendments. One issue we had was that all the Booking.com bookings were in Jenny’s name; but the solution was easy, she just had to sign a form to say that she made bookings for me and provide another photocopy of her passport.
Once this is complete you will either be sent away to provide more details, or your application will be submitted (most likely the former).
Step 4: Review and submission of documents
Once you have sorted out any further requirements (which you will likely be able to do right there in the office, since they have such great facilities) you should be able to return to the same window at the application centre without queuing again. They will review all your details a final time and take it for submission. At this point you must decide what service you want; normal, express or urgent (see below). They will give you three things: 1. a receipt to confirm your application is submitted, 2. a numbered ticket to be called over to the payment counter, 3. a receipt which you take with you to the payment counter so they know what service and price you need to pay. This is where you part with your passport – always a tense moment for me!
Step 5: Payment
Once your number is called, take your payment receipt to the payment counter, make your payment in HKD in cash. The clerk will then tell you when to come back and you are good to leave. Most likely at this point, you will receive your visa. Though in some rare cases you can be rejected or asked for further information, they will take your contact details should they need you to come back early to provide more info.
Step 6: Wait for processing time to complete
As mentioned above, the Clerk should have noticed any issues, so likelihood is that you will be fine to get your Visa, so just go out and enjoy your time in Hong Kong. See here for some tips!: http://bit.ly/RobJennyHongKong
Step 7: Pick up Passport
Head back to the application centre, take a ticket at the entrance and pick up your passport. It really should be that easy. Make sure you double-check every detail of your visa sticker at the window, the name, passport number etc. you will not be able to have it changed later.
Step 8: Go out and Enjoy Hong Kong! Get packing for your trip to Mainland China
For some tips for what to do in China, see here: http://bit.ly/RobJennyChina
Chinese Tourist Visa Details
Tourist Visa Costs
Depending on the country of your passport the price of your visa will vary greatly. See the table below for US, UK and Canada prices (as of 2019), the full list of up-to-date prices is here. In addition to this it is possible to pay an additional fee to expedite the service. Note that provided you submit your application before midday the day you submit is included in the processing time. Therefore using the urgent service you would be able to pick up your completed visa the following afternoon.
All payments are in HKD cash only.
|US Citizens||Canadian Citizens||UK Citizens|
|Single Entry Visa||HKD 1100 / |
|610 HKD /|
|940 HKD / |
|Processing time||Additional fee|
|Regular Service||4 working days||0 HKD|
|Express Service||3 working days||180 HKD|
|Urgent Service||2 working days||310 HKD|
Do I need an appointment?
We made an appointment online as we only had a few days in HK to get the visa before heading to mainland China and didn’t want to risk standing in a queue all day. However many people turned up on the day. Whether you make an appointment or turn up, it is best to go as soon as the centre opens at 9am at the HK centre. This is because to have the current day included in the processing time they expect you to submit before the afternoon. If there are any aspects of your application that are incorrect you will be able to go away, update them, or get the missing information and return to your original service person without needing to queue up for a second time.
Hong Kong allows people of many different nationalities the ability to enter without a visa for up to 90 days. This gives ample time to see this part of the world and gain the relevant visa.
If you want to go to Macau be aware that you will need your passport back before you can head over.
Octopus cards are invaluable for your time in Hong Kong, prices on public transport can be cheaper and many things can be paid for with the octopus card. There are two main ways to get an octopus card. One option is to buy a “Sold Toursit Octopus” which means you buy a card that you keep. When you leave you can get the balance back in cash, but the card will stop working. The other option is a normal Octopus, this requires a deposit which if you wish you can redeem when you leave, but you then do not have a souvenir card to keep.
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Also check out some of our epic trips including our time in Sri Lanka.