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When applying for a tourist visa, I have read that proof of trip (flight and/or hotel confirmation) is required in order to apply. However, there's still the off-chance that a tourist visa application will be denied even if the person has submitted everything and is in good standing for a visa. Therefore, if the person is denied a visa, then the trip will have to be canceled (which might mean losing out on money depending on the cancellation policy). Is there any general advice as to which should be done first? And any advice on what to do if the visa is denied but the trip has already been booked?

This is not strictly related to China (per the link) but any country.

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    I believe for all countries is very generic. I know that for US Visa for example, the recommendation is to buy tickets and so on after you get the VISA. As you mention, to China is different. I suggest to restrict the question for only one country (or maybe for type of VISA).
    – Marcel P.
    Sep 28, 2017 at 14:04

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China: Visa agencies in the US often explicitly state you can submit only 'reservations' with you visa application. Meaning, you don't need to and they're effectively saying don't pay for anything until the Visa is approved.

Check to see what various agencies recommend or require. I'll go out on a limb and say booked and paid tickets will be required very infrequently if ever. Even then, there are way around that.

Example from Allied Passpot: "One flight itinerary with passenger name listed on reservation (required, but does not have to be a purchased ticket or confirmed reservation, unbooked itineraries are acceptable)"

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A fake booking is sufficient for applying visa if you worried about losing money once you denied. You can apply for this in any travel agencies and the can give it to you for free or sometimes for a small amount like the cost of printing.

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It seems like a catch-22 to me. In many cases, there is no chance to get a visa without a booking, so it is only possible to do the booking first. As much as possible, make a fully refundable reservation. This is not always an option and I had to risk it when applying for a Brazilian visa to go for Carnaval and all the hotels I could find had only very expensive non-refundable rooms for that week.

Some visa application accept an itinerary without a reservation which you can submit but that certainly depends on the the embassy involved and perhaps who processes your application. The best bet is to call ahead and ask as part of checking visa-requirements.

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