Since 2016, if you have a passport form one of the countries listed on this page, it’s possible to get a group Chinese visa directly online at China Visa Direct, a platform that claims to be authorized by the Ministry of Public Safety of the People’s Republic of China.
This means that you may get a group visa without having to go to the consulate or mail your passport.
Online Group Visas for China – Index
- Advantages of online visas
- Disadvantages of online visas
- How can I get a Chinese visa online?
- How much does an online visa cost?
- Can I trust China Visa Direct?
- When should I apply for the visa?
- When and how will I get my visa?
- Can I require an online visa if I travel alone?
- How long does my online visa last?
- Other frequently asked questions
The advantages of online visas
- If you have an EU passport the visa only costs 99 Euro a person for your group (the reason is because there aren’t any intermediaries or consular fees). If your passport is from a different country, here you’ll find a complete list of prices);
- You won’t have to go to the consulate or mail your passport, saving time and worry about losing your precious document.
- From June 2019, the visa is valid for 30 days from the date of entry in China (before it was valid 30 days from the date of visa approval, and thus you could stay in China less days).
Disadvantages of online visas
You must enter China within 15 days of visa approval. This means that if, for example, your visa is approved on July 5, then you must enter China before July 20, as the day of approval (July 5 in this example) will also be counted. If you don’t enter China within 15 days, your visa will automatically expire.
Note that this is not a big issue: as long as you know what day you arrive in China, you can simply apply for the visa around 20 days before. You can also apply months before, as you visa will only be processed 15 days before departure.
- You will get only a visa for the whole group, thus you can’t separate from your group (this visa is good if, for example, you’re planning on visiting China with relatives or friends);
- The online visa doesn’t have a specific denomination. In practicality however, you can only use it if you’re going to China for tourism or, according to the situation, business. If you need a work or student visa, etc (or a multiple entry visa) then you’ll have to go through the conventional procedure. Click here to learn how to get a Chinese visa through conventional channels.
How can I get a Chinese visa online?
First of all, this type of visa is meant primarily for those traveling to China as a group for tourism purposes. If you’re thinking of using a tour operator, then all you have to do is explain to the travel agency that you intend to apply for your visa online so as to spend less and not have to mail your passport. It will be the agency to handle things directly after registering on China Visa Direct.
If instead you intend to travel through an agency, you can apply for your online visa directly on this page.
Here is the complete procedure for applying for an online visa:
- Click here and register with the platform online;
- Choose your type of visa (Group Visa, Urgent Visa, etcetera);
- Insert the personal information of all the people that are taking part to the trip to China;
- Upload a scanned copy of the photo and information passport pages of all the people that are taking part to the trip to China (note that all passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of return);
- Upload a photo for each person that is taking part to the trip to China (the photo must show the full face, have a light color background and have the same dimensions of a passport photo);
- Upload a copy of the round trip airline ticket and a copy of the hotel reservation for the entire stay in China for the people that are taking part to the trip;
- Pay the fee by credit card (Visa or MasterCard), PayPal or bank transfer;
- For any doubts or questions, contact the website operators directly via email ([email protected]) or telephone (+44 20 8133 7048).
Here an online visa fac-simile, provided by China Visa Direct:
How much does an online visa cost?
As I already explained, the price of the group visa starts at 99 Euro a person (the price may be higher, according to your citizenship). Click here to see the list of prices for all admitted nationalities.
Can I trust China Visa Direct?
As for today, what we can say is that we got a positive testimonial from Michele Serra, which works for Mistral Tour Internazionale, a reputable Italian Travel Agency.
In short, he told us that they are using the online visas for their clients from February 16, and so far they are satisfied with the service.
We also got some positive testimonials from some of our readers, which we don’t report here as we can’t verify the identity of the readers.
Beside this, we’re not aware of any specific Chinese law that explicitly claims that you can get a Chinese visa online (but neither that you can’t). So far, the only information we could find is that The Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China, which came into force on July 1, 2013, states the following:
“Travel agencies that organize inbound tourism in accordance with relevant State regulations may apply for group tourist visas from port visa authorities.”
As you can see, the law is rather vague.
Further, note that all the information presented in this article was taken from China Visa Direct’s website (and not from websites belonging to the Chinese government).
Thus, our recommendation is that, before to apply for a Chinese visa online, no matter the agency you choose to use, you contact your flight company and make sure that they are familiar with the online group visa, so that you won’t have any problem at the moment of boarding your plane.
When should I apply for the visa?
The agency suggests that you apply for the visa at least 20 days before the departure date. They also say that if you apply for the visa too in advance, the system will process it so that it arrives at most 15 days before departure. So this is fine too.
Note that the visa will expire if you don’t enter China within 15 days, from the day of your visa’s approval.
When and how will I get my visa?
Once the application is approved by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, the visa will be sent online by international courier (DHL) to the address you specified on your application.
The visa consists of a single stamped page (we recommend making at least one photocopy for each member of the traveling party once you get it) that will be endorsed on arrival to China and given back when you leave China.
Can I require an online visa if I travel alone?
Generally speaking, the online visa is only available for groups of travelers.
At the moment there is an exception, you can apply for a single business visa if you arrive at Pudong Shanghai airport. You can read the details here.
How long does my online visa last?
The visa is valid for 30 days from the date of entry.
As was already mentioned, you must enter China, and thus use your visa, within 15 days of visa approval, or the visa will expire.
What happens if, for some reason I can’t leave China before my visa expires?
In this case, you’ll have to alert the local authorities and apply for a visa extension, which cannot however surpass 30 days. You’ll have to present your application, directly or through an authorized agent at the Office for the Exit and Entry Administration of the local Public Security Bureau.
How many entrances are permitted with an online visa?
One. The online visa will be withdrawn when you leave China.
Can I apply for any type of visa online?
No, as I already said the online visa is almost only good for those to visit China for tourism (and for periods of 30 days maximum). If you intend to apply for a visa for different reasons, with a longer duration or more than one entries, then you’ll have to go through conventional channels.
At the moment it’s also possible to apply for a business visa, but only if you arrive at Pudong Shanghai airport. You can read the details here.
If I’m part of a group, can I choose an itinerary that’s different than the other members of my group once we arrive in China?
No. That would be illegal. All members of a group must travel together and stay in the same hotels for the entire length of the trip.
Can two people with different nationalities apply for a group visa?
Yes, so long as both people have passports from one of the countries enumerated on this list.
Note that for the visa application it’s the passport, not where you live that counts. For example, a Russian with a British passport can apply for a visa online, while a British with a Russian passport cannot (since Russia is not on the list of admitted countries).
What if someone in my group can’t go?
The group visa will be updated accordingly and all other participants can enter China without worry.
[Photo Credits (Creative Commons License): www.flickr.com/photos/heidi-design/]