Although China has sought to increase tourism in recent years, citizens from the majority of the world’s countries still need an advance visa to visit the Middle Kingdom, with certain exceptions I’ll go over in a few paragraphs. In most cases, this involves applying for a China visa in your home country well in advance of your trip, which can be time-consuming and expensive, particularly if you don’t live near a Chinese embassy or consulate.
The good news is that there’s a workaround to this: Obtaining a China visa in Hong Kong, where you almost certainly won’t need a visa to travel. The better news? Hong Kong is absolutely amazing, which means that you might even have fun getting your China visa there.
Where to Apply for a China Visa in Hong Kong
Upon arriving in Hong Kong Island or Kowloon (the two areas in Hong Kong where you’re most likely to stay), you will see signs for “China Visa Services” everywhere. Indeed, you might also see an “Express China Visa” desk at Hong Kong airport.
I have personally always gotten my China visa in Hong Kong at China Travel Service. CTS has convenient locations all over Hong Kong, including in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, where their main branch is located.
How Long Does it Take to Get a China Visa in Hong Kong?
Getting a China visa in Hong Kong is quick, but it isn’t instant: Even for the “Express China Visa” desk at the airport, you’ll need to wait a minimum of one working day, and between 2-4 days if you don’t want to pay the expedited service fee. If you get your China visa from an agency in Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, the time will be the same: You’ll also need to wait 2-4 days, unless you pay a fee to have the service expedited.
Which Types of China Visas Can I Get in Hong Kong?
In general, you can get any type of China visa you need in Hong Kong, although most people reading this article will be applying for China tourist visas. Keep in mind that getting a China visa in Hong Kong is subject to more restriction than doing so via an embassy or China visa agency in your home country.
For example, U.S. citizens cannot obtain the new 10-year China visa when applying in Hong Kong. Additionally, there are limits to how many times you can obtain a China visa in Hong Kong during a single calendar year.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a China Visa in Hong Kong?
How much it costs to get a China visa in Hong Kong depends upon your nationality, how long you want to stay in China, what type of visa you need and how long you want the visa to be valid for. Rather than provide you with misinformation, I advise you to choose a China visa service, then call the office prior to going there to confirm your price in Hong Kong dollars.
Do I Need a Visa to Travel to China?
As of December 2016, citizens from every country except Brunei, Japan and Singapore need a visa to enter China. Thankfully, there is a way around this for citizens of more than 50 other countries, including the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and most E.U. countries: Visit China on a stopover.
Specifically, if you plan to spend less than 72 hours in China, en route from one country to another (for example, flying JFK-PEK-BKK on Air China, and stopping in Beijing for three days or less), you can enter China visa free. This arrangement is valid in more than a dozen Chinese cities, including Chengdu, Xi’an, Guangzhou and Shanghai, where you can actually stay for up to six days without a visa, as of December 2016.
The vast majority of people need a visa to enter China, although you needn’t apply in your home country, in most cases. Instead, you can get your China visa in Hong Kong, although you should keep in mind that doing so may be more expensive and restrictive than getting one in your home country. Another alternative is to visit China on a stopover, which may exempt you from needing a visa entirely.
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