No doubt about it, China is one of the really hot places for business travel these days. But before you go, you need to make sure you have the right documents. In addition to a passport, business travelers will need a visa for a trip to mainland China.
To you navigate the process, we've put together this overview. For more tips on using a Chinese visa, or for information on how to modify one if you're in China, consult our Tips for Using a China Visa.
The whole application process may take about a week, and that's not including the time required to hear back on your application. For an extra fee, you can select same day or rush services.
Note: you do not need a visa for trips to Hong Kong of durations under thirty days. For business travelers going to Hong Kong, it may be possible to apply for a visa there. Simply ask your hotel concierge for assistance. Alternatively, if you're in Hong Kong to conduct business, you may want to follow these directions to obtain a visa for Hong Kong.
Business travelers to China usually obtain an "F"-type visa. F visas are issued to travelers who are visiting China for business reasons, such as lectures, trade shows, short-term studies, internships, or general business, technological, or cultural exchanges.
You'll need to decide what version of the Visa you’re applying for: single entry (valid for 3-6 months), double entry (valid for 6 months), or multiple entry (valid for 6 months or 12 months). The multiple entry F visa is value for 24 months, but requires additional documentation (such as documents proving that that you investments in China or are collaborating with a Chinese company, etc.)
Complete the Paperwork
The place to start is by making sure you have a valid U.S. passport with at least six months remaining on it, and one blank visa page.
The first step in applying for obtaining a visa for a visit to mainland China is to download the visa application from the Chinese Embassy website. Once you've downloaded it, you'll need to fill it out. Make sure to select the correct type of visa you're applying for. Most business travelers will want to apply for a business visa (choice F). Business Visas (an F Visa) are issue for travelers who will be staying in China less than six months, and are visiting for investigation, lectures, business, short-term advanced studies, internships, or business, scientific-technological, and cultural exchanges.
You'll also need to attach one passport photo (2 by 2 inch, black and white is acceptable) to the application, and submit a copy of your hotel and flight (round trip) information as well. You will also need to include an invitation letter from an authorized Chinese business, or a letter of introduction from your U.S.-based company.
Lastly, you'll want to include a self-addressed, prepaid envelope so the Chinese Consulate can return the materials to you.
Business travelers going back and forth between China and Hong Kong should be sure to select the "double entry" option on the application.
Application fees can be paid by credit card, money order, cashier's check, or company check.
Visa application fees start at $130 for United States citizens.
Express processing service (2-3 days) costs $20 extra.
Same day processing service is $30 extra
Submitting the Paperwork
Visa applications must be submitted in person. Mailed applications are not accepted.
Once you have all your materials assembled (visa application, passport photo, copy of hotel and flight information, invitation letter, and self-addressed, prepaid envelope), you should deliver them to the nearest Chinese Consulate.
If you can't make it to a Chinese Consulate in person, you can hire an authorized agent to do it for you. You can also ask a travel agent for assistance.
Obtaining the Visa
Once your materials are submitted, all you have to do is wait. Processing times vary, so it's best to leave plenty of time before your trip for obtaining the visa. Regular processing time is 4 days. Rush (2-3 days) and same day service is available for an extra fee.