This is a cautionary tale.
I had a very messy ordeal trying to get my visa, primarily because of a bit of lack of planning and a lot of changes since the last time I got my visa (back in 2010). It was also tricky because the Chinese Embassy website is a bit out of date, so it doesn’t seem to account for this information. Later, I found a website called mychinavisa.com that would prove to be a lot more helpful.
However, I thought I’d just throw up a little guide here because you never know.
Note: I am an American-born Chinese person, and I have been to China before. If these 2 stipulations don’t apply to you, the process may be different.
Also, some details are specific to the Washington, DC office. This is a whole bundle of headaches in and of itself.
Documents to Bring
- Valid passport (with enough pages for a visa)
- Copy of passport page with important information
- Copy of previously granted visa
- Invitation letter*
- Copy/scan of the front AND back of invitation letter writer’s ID*
- Hotel reservation receipt (if you are not staying with invitation letter writer)
- Flight itinerary
*This was the part that got me a bit tripped up. They have made visa applications a bit stricter since 2010. Essentially, you need proof that you are actually going to China and you will have your stuff together while you’re there.
The website I provided has a guideline for the invitation letter, as it does need to have specific information in it, apparently. ALSO the ID thing is very important. They need to verify that a Chinese citizen or permanent resident is inviting you.
Make sure you have ALL OF THESE DOCUMENTS when you go. If you don’t, you will not be able to have your visa application processed. And that’s that. You may be able to print/copy (for a fee) at the location, but you’ll have to wait in the line all over again. AVOID THIS.
Maneuvering the Visa Office
The visa office nearest to me is the one in Washington, D.C. This sucks big time because it’s an hour long drive without traffic or incompetent drivers.
The problem is that getting into DC means dealing with both traffic and terrible drivers.
ALSO parking. If you are parking at the DC visa office, you can either park on the street in front (if there is room) or at a lot/garage. I parked in the lot behind the building next to the visa office’s building. This lot is kind of sketchy. You tell them which car you have, they take your keys, and then you ask for your keys back and pay with your ticket that they give you when you turn over your keys. It’s sketchy because:
- They don’t seem great at keeping track of which cars they have the keys for
- They don’t have a system for making sure they don’t give keys to the wrong drivers.
If you park here, make sure you have a distinctive keychain. Or try to find somewhere else. It is the most convenient place to park, but I always felt uneasy.
At the DC office, you can go upstairs to print things out (for a fee, of course). This can be anything from your visa application, to copies of your invitation letter, etc. Use this resource if you must do something last minute. For me, I had to run up there to get the copy of the ID, which I didn’t know I needed until they told me I couldn’t get my visa otherwise. I ran upstairs, furiously sent out emails, and waited for the photos to come back.
ALSO plan for traffic and then know the hours. At the DC office, they are open from 9:30-12:30 and 1:30 to 3:00. They are open for a grand total of 4.5 hours AND if you get there before 12:30 but you aren’t served by then, you will have to wait until after they come back from lunch.
That is some BS but oh well. I had to come back since I got stuck in a lot of rainy-day traffic and arrived at 3:15, missing the hours by 15 minutes.
I hated the whole process. I hated driving back and forth. I hated getting in a car accident on my way back from an infuriating trip. I hate DC driving (it is the worst in the country).
BUT. I got my visa and was able to celebrate the Chinese New Year with my family.
What else would you like to know about my trip to China?