China, how I love you and your complicated way of dealing with visas. When I first went to China many years ago (and I am still a regular visitor to the country as well as Hong Kong and Macao), getting the visas was a long drawn out process, with visits to the visa centre in the Bank of England area of London, scanning documents, fingerprint scans and answering questions. I even had to prove my previous visits there and got questioned on some of the countries I have visited in the past (I love being a travel blogger, I get to see many places around the world). Even though I am a part-time traveler (yes, I have a ‘real’ job in London also), sending in my passport to the visa centre, knowing my exact dates, sending them flight details and accommodation documents, it is a massive hassle when trying to get a Chinese Visa. Usually I go to China with my partner or friends on previous visits so we usually get a group visa (which saves on the costs – I explain the restrictions in a bit), and I recently I discovered iVisa and I actually find this is the best way to obtain this visa.
The best way to obtain an Chinese visa is going to iVisa to organise your Chinese Visa. They do everything for you and the processing time can take up to six days. Next time me and my partner will travel to China, we are going to get our Chinese visa with iVisa. It takes away all the stress and time to organise the visa by myself. iVisa charges a £42 service fee, which for me is saving a lot of money as this takes away the costs of going from my hometown of Stevenage to the visa centre in London which can cost half of the service fee at least!
Ok, just a technical bit with iVisa and Chinese visas. iVisa can only issue ‘group visas’ and the ‘Business eVisa on arrival’. If you are looking to travel by yourself, then unfortunately you will have to go to the visa centre in London to apply. Like I said, I always travel with someone and that is why a group visa is the best way to go.
An overview of the Group Visa for China
Group visa application is way different from the individual application. Its a visa that is issued to a tourist group which must have a minimum of two members (used to be five). Any group of two or more who have this visa must travel together at the entry and exit points of mainland China, travel together within the country for the exact same time and dates. Basically, one visa covers all the members. This visa is great as it can be used for couples, a family, a school group to name a few. The visa is only used for TOURISM purposes and is valid for a maximum of thirty days. However, the entry into China must be within fifteen days from the issue of the visa or it will expire automatically. The group visa is issued in a tourist group form rather than the usual visa affixed to an original passport, so no original passport is required for the Chinese Group visa application, and also no fingerprint is required. Please also note that any international cruise ship calling at any Chinese ports is not part of the Chinese Group Visa scheme.
Note that your entry into China must be within 15 days from the issue date of the visa or it will expire automatically. The China Group eVisa is issued on a separate sheet instead of visa sticker on the individual passport, so you’ll need to print it out and bring a copy with you.
Did you know that iVisa can also sort out Chinese group visas for the following citizens of the following twenty-two countries: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America.
How to apply for a Chinese group visa
All you need to do is apply online at iVisa. You do not need to send off your passport to any embassy since iVisa just require a digital copy. Once the visa is issued by the government of China, they will courier the visa to your home address at least fifteen days before departure. Travelers must bring the document along with passports to enter China. The visa is authorised by the Ministry of Public Safety of the People’s Republic of China.
The required documents to apply for the visa are the following:
- Minimum of 2 people traveling together.
- A digital passport copy for each traveler. Remember that your passport must have at least 6 more months of validity left.
- A recently-taken colour passport photo
- Return airline ticket
- Copy of the Chinese hotel reservation, or an invitation letter from your Chinese host.
- Credit/debit card or PayPal account
- Valid postal address
- The China Group e-Visa is valid for 30 days after arrival.
- Your order will be submitted for approval approximately 30 days from your intended travel date, per the issuing authority’s requirement.
- You must apply no later than 20 days from your intended travel date.
- Once your visa is issued by the Government of China, iVisa will courier the actual visa to your home 15 days before your departure. (This is for the UK but check if applying from the country list above).
- The China Group e-Visa is a Single Entry visa.
- Applicants must be outside the Republic of China when applying for their visa.
- You must have a valid and confirmed onward travel ticket to leave China (often this means simply evidence of a return flight).
- You must have a travel document/passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of your arrival in China.
- All travelers in the group must enter and depart China on the same flight, at the same time, using the same port of entry and exit, and must use the same travel itinerary while in China.
- The group must consist of a minimum of 2 people.
Now you are all set
Remember you’ll need travel insurance when traveling to China. I recommend WorldNomad’s as their insurance has been designed for travellers by travellers. They offer 24/7 emergency assistance, trip cancellation, protection of gear, and a lot more. Plus they’re flexible and simple! Just what we need! Get a quote here whilst you’re thinking about it and you don’t need to be in your home country to become covered.
This blog post was written in September 2019. Sometimes the rules change from time to time, so if there is something here which doesn’t make sense or you need any up to date information, please contact iVisa, the embassy or contact the visa centre in London. This post was written as a guide and I hope I found you an easier way of obtaining Chinese visas from the United Kingdom.
Make sure you check out my China blog posts! So far I have been to Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao and can’t wait to get out there again and explore more of this amazing country.
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