Can I get a Chinese mainland tourist visa in a country or region outside my own?





Photo by Elliott Brown

If you’re travelling around Asia at the moment and want to make a visit to the Chinese mainland while you are in the region, you will probably need to apply for a Chinese Tourist Visa from outside your own country. This is technically possible, although if China is going through a period of tightening visa controls, you may find your application refused (note that if you are in the third country as a resident – eg a student or worker – and have the appropriate visa for that country, this should never be an issue; your country of residence will be treated the same as your home country). 

The safest thing to do is to apply at a Chinese embassy or consulate in your own country before you begin your trip, as you don’t need to enter China from the same country you got your visa in. However, if it’s too late for that you could try to visit a Chinese embassy or consulate in a third country to find out whether they will accept your application.

If your application is accepted and a visa is granted, your length of stay will be decided by the visa officers and based on the documents you have prepared and your reason for coming to China. Generally speaking, the fact that you have applied from outside your own country shouldn’t affect the length of your stay at all.

 

Applying from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan

In the context of applying for Chinese mainland visas, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan all function in the same was as third countries. Previously, many people thought that applying for a mainland visa application in Hong Kong would guarantee a return. However, these days applying from Hong Kong and Macao – especially on “visa runs” in which people bounce in and out of the mainland to keep renewing tourist visas – does not necessarily mean success. Taiwan remains somewhat easier to get tourist visas from – although visa runs are still highly discouraged. 

 

Notes on expiry dates

Do be aware that Chinese tourist visas expire after the “Enter Before” date printed on the visa; if you don’t enter the country by this date, you will have to apply again for an L Visa before you can enter the Chinese mainland. 

There is usually a period of three months between the date of issue and the “Enter Before” date, so don’t apply for your visa more than three months before you intend to enter the country. If you are planning to visit other countries before you come to China, give yourself some “buffer time” in case of delays (or in case you decide to spend a little extra time abroad!). 

Useful Chinese words and phrases 

旅游签证 lǚyóu qiānzhèng Tourist visa
第三国 dìsān guó Third country
有效期 yǒuxiào qī Enter before
停留期 tíngliú qī Duration of stay

 

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