Have you ever seen the movie Pulling Strings? That one that takes place in Mexico City? Well, in the beginning Jaime Camil is trying to apply for a visa for his daughter, and you see there are rows of windows with American employees behind them granting or denying people the right to enter the United States. I went through a similar situation when applying for my visa to China, except I was in Los Angeles, and I was speaking to a Chinese employee.
I am writing this blog to help out anyone who is thinking about applying for a Chinese visa. Hopefully my experience will make yours a little easier.
1. Visa Application (All this is as of July 2017)
The first thing you have to do is figure out what type of visa you would like. I applied for a student visa, but there are actually sixteen different visas for China, two of which are student visas (X1 if you plan on more than 180 days, and X2 if you plan on less than 180 days). You can see all the types of visas here. In that link it also has a list of things you would need to apply for that certain visa. For example, the X2 visa which I got requires a passport, the Chinese Visa Application, proof of residence (it says this is just needed for non-U.S citizens, but I included an enrollment verification just in case), any previous Chinese visas, and a photocopy of the Admission Notice from your institution in China. It is also necessary to have a glossy 33mmX48mm photo glued to the top right of the application form.
Once you have all your documents ready, I recommend putting them all in a folder so you can have them organized and ready to go.
2. Going to the Chinese Consulate.
This you can do yourself, or you can hire someone through a travel agency to do it all for you, which of course costs a lot of extra money. I recommend you do it yourself so you get the experience and can get a nice road trip out of it.
When you apply for a Chinese visa, you have to go to the consulate or embassy that your state is assigned to. It is possible to go to another consulate, however you would have to put an address that falls into that jurisdiction, and I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that. Because I had to go to the Los Angeles consulate, I am going to write about where it is and how it works.
The Consulate General of China Visa Office in Los Angeles is nestled in a quiet part of Koreatown, and a little hard to find at first. The address is 500 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, CA 90020, which at first might seem confusing, because when you get there it looks like this:
The visa office is on the third floor of the World Mission University. Why? I have absolutely no idea, but it is important to note that the visa office is in a separate building than the actual Chinese Consulate General, which is on the other side of the street. There is no designated parking, but there is metered parking on the side of the road all around the building.
Their hours are from 9am-2pm, but I highly recommend you get there between an hour and half an hour before 9 so you can wait in line before the doors open to make sure you are out of there as soon as possible. PLAN ACCORDINGLY FOR TRAFFIC! I am not from California, so I had no idea that what looks like a half an hour on a map actually means an hour and a half during LA rush hour. Either way we got there before 9 so we could wait in line. Once the doors open you go through a security check then you have to get a ticket from a little machine where you push a button depending on what service you need (you would push the “visa” button). Then you sit and wait some more.
I didn’t have to wait as long as I thought I would. Once your number is called you go to the window that the electronic voice is sending your number to. It’s a pretty quick process. I just gave all my documents to the guy behind the window who quickly looked through them, asked me to sign the application because I had forgotten to do that, and asked me if I wanted regular service or rush service. I gladly applied for rush service because I wanted the visa ASAP since I didn’t live in the area. He gave me the pink receipt, and I left him with my documents and my passport.
3. Picking up your visa and cost
On your pink receipt, it tells you what day your visa will be ready, and thankfully I applied for rush service so I got mine the next day. To pick up your visa, you have to go through the same process you go through to apply for your visa. Still arrive early, and wait in line. Once you enter and get past the security, instead of getting a ticket and sitting down, you get in a separate line that starts at the first window. This is the “Pick up window.” After waiting in line a little, I went up with my receipt and a photo ID, and apparently my visa wasn’t ready. So again I waited for a little, then they called me to the window and I got my visa. The total cost was $160; $140 for the visa, and $20 for rush service.
4. Understanding your visa
“Category” is the type of visa you were awarded.
“Entries” is number of entries you have to China. On my application I applied for multiple entries, but when I checked my visa and saw that I was only granted 1 entry, I asked the lady at the window why I only had one, and she told me that certain student visas are only granted one entry. I assume it is because it is under 180 days.
“Duration of each stay” is how many days I can stay. On the application I said my intended number of days was 133, but I was still hoping they would give me 180 days. They didn’t. Remember it’s all up to the person behind the window.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS! I recommend you contact the Chinese Chamber of Commerce at (312) 368-9911. They helped me with all my questions. I contacted the Los Angeles Chinese Consulate many times but I could not get through.