While many people apply for a China visa back home, some travelers like to make last-minute decisions. For them there’s the option of getting a China visa in Hong Kong. Although there are several agents that can do the job for you, some people – including me – like to do it themselves. This article will tell you step by step how to get a visa for China in Hong Kong. Although these steps are accurate during the time of writing (September 2013), they are subject to change.
First and foremost
Before you head to the office you decide a few things up front:
- How fast do I want/need my China visa?
- How long will I stay in China?
- Am I going to any other countries in that period? Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau count too.
- Where am I going to stay in China?
- Which countries have I visited in the last 12 months?
Documents to prepare for your China visa application
- You will need a recent photo of yourself on a white or grey-ish background, similar to what you’ll need for a passport. If you don’t have one you can use the photo booth at the visa application office for HKD 50 (around EUR 5).
- Print-outs to confirm your stays in China. While the form asks for ALL your stays in China, I usually get away with filling in the accommodation details for 2 major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. If you have no idea where you’ll stay, or you’ll be staying at a friend’s place or couchsurfing, I advise you to make a booking at a website that allows free cancellations such as Booking.com. Make a booking for the first couple of days in the city you’ll arrive in China and preferably a second booking for the last couple of days before you leave China and you should be settled. Don’t forget to cancel the booking after you have received your visa, like I did. Be sure to print out the confirmation emails you’ll receive for the bookings, you’ll need to provide them at your visa application. It’s best to do the printing up front since there aren’t many options around the visa application building. Copying documents can be done inside the building for a small fee.
- You will need to provide the address and telephone number for your school or employer. Unless you’ve memorized them (why?) it’s handy to look them up before applying.
- You will need a ticket out of China. This can be a flight ticket, bus ticket, train ticket or ferry ticket. You’ll need to print it out and attach it to the application form. If you’re leaving the country by MTR, e.g. from Shenzhen to Hong Kong, it is enough to explain this on the form.
- On the Commissioner’s Office’s site you can find an example of the China visa application form. The first time I applied for a Chinese visa in Hong Kong (July 2013) I needed to fill in both Form A and B. The second time (September 2013) it was only Form A. A general tip: don’t fill in too many details on the form. The more specific information you will write down, the more reason the office has to ask questions or even base a refusal on. Exceptions are hotel addresses and flight information.
How to get to the China Visa Application building (China Resources Building)
The China Resources Building, where the visa are issued, is located at:
3rd floor of the China Resources Building
26 Harbor Road, Wan Chai
The quickest way to get there is via MTR, station Wan Chai, Exit A1. You can pretty much get to the visa office by taking only the skywalk overpasses. Follow the signs to the Immigration Tower, then turn right on Gloucester rd, then a left on Fleming rd. The building will be on your right side. It’s not an easy building to spot since, at the time of writing, the building was under heavy construction. There are however some signs on ground-level of the China Resources Building pointing you to the right direction.
The best time to apply for your China visa in Hong Kong
The timing of your visit is very important, since it can get very, very crowded. The first time I tried to apply there were 96 people in front of me. That said, the queue can move pretty quickly, and after waiting for an hour it was my turn. The office is open on:
Monday to Friday (except public holidays)
9:00 – 12:00 open
12:00 – 14:00 closed (lunch break)
14:00 – 17:00 open
On the website of the Hong Kong Government you can find the public holidays for 2013.
Generally the best time to apply for a visa is either early morning (9:00 – 10:00) or late afternoon (15:00 – 17:00). The busiest times are right before and after lunch time (11:oo – 12:00 and 14:00 – 15:00). Generally, you will see a lot of stressed people yelling at the person behind the counter and at each other. Another annoyance is the changing of the numbers. Every couple of seconds a new number is announced; this alone can drive you nuts.I advise therefore to take a number and get some coffee at the Pacific Coffee across the street in the Great Eagle Centre. Be sure to be back timely though, you will have to get a new number if your number passes.
The visa application process
Once you get to the China Resource Building, you will have to go to a small security check. Don’t bring any drinks, lighters or any newly bought electronic devices (I saw a lady getting refused because she brought an internet modem). You can leave drinks and lighters outside, but you will easily forget to pick them up again since the exit is on the other side of the building. I did anyway.
Once you are inside, go to the 3rd floor. There, grab a form and start filling it out. Get a passport photo on the spot if you need one.
A few things to note:
- It usually takes 3 days to process the visa. This means that if you apply for a visa on Monday, you can pick it up on Thursday. The weekends (and public holidays) don’t count, so if you apply on Thursday you’ll be able to pick it up on Tuesday.
- At the time I tried, there were no same-day visa available. An option on the form was available to request “express service”, but I assume this is for the 2-day service instead of the 24-hour service.
- Single entry visa, meaning that you will only enter China once and stay for a maximum of 30 days. For Netherlands nationals this visa cost HKD 200 (around EUR 20) at the time of writing.
- Double entry visa, meaning that you will be able to enter China two times, each for a period of 30 days. For Netherlands nationals this visa cost HKD 300 (around EUR 30) at the time of writing.
- Multiple entry visa, meaning that you will able to enter China several times, each for a period of 30 days (for a maximum of 12 months). The cost for this visa is around HKD 550 (around EUR 55) at the time of writing.
Picking up your visa
This process usually goes much faster than the application. Go to the China Resource Building again at the date on your pick-up receipt. You will have to stand in the same line as the people applying, so early morning or late afternoon are the best times. Give your receipt to the person next to the ticket dispenser and you will receive a number for picking up your visa. These number change much faster than the application ones, so unfortunately there is no time for coffee. You will have to visit two counters; one for picking up your passport and one for paying the visa fee. With some luck you will be out there in less than 30 minutes.
Extending your China visa
It is possible to extend your single or double entry visa for an extra period of 30 days. This is only possible once and has to be done at least 7 days before the visa expires. To do so, visit the PSB (Public Security Bureau) within 24 hours of arriving in the city where you will ask for the extension. This is a necessary step for registration reasons. More about this process here (external link).