I know standing in line to get a visa is never fun, but was wondering if any Americans had experience getting a standard tourist "L" visa in Hong Kong.

I'm leaving on a RTW trip in less than two weeks and I plan on being in China around June. So I either need to get a 6 or 12 month multi-entry visa before I leave the USA - which would entail booking all my flights and accommodation and securing an invitation letter in the next few days - or just fly to Hong Kong before going to China in June.

Hong Kong seems like the simplest answer, but China usually doesn't allow Americans to get visas outside of their home country (HK seems to be an exception). I just wanted to know if any Americans had done it successfully.

Update: The Chinese Visa Office in HK currently has this notice on their website: "If you don't reside or work in Hong Kong permanently, you are required to apply Chinese visa from the Embassy or Consulate-General of Peoples' Republic of China in your resident country." It seems practices may have changed. Any Americans with experience care to contradict this? Link: http://www.fmcoprc.gov.hk/eng/zgqz/bgfwxx/default.htm

  • 1
    I believe my mom did this several years ago, but I'll check with her to confirm that. That said, the policy could very well have changed in the past few years. In the meantime, the Chinese consulates can, for an expedited processing fee, process visa applications within 24 hours (and in some cases, the same day), so there's another option there.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:10
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    China visa conditions change frequently and fast, and someone's experience last month may unfortunately have no bearing on your visa application this month. Best always contact the embassy directly.
    – user5043
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 15:15

3 Answers 3


I lived in Hong Kong for nearly a year, and made multiple trips to mainland China while I was there.

I recommend getting your Chinese visa from a processing/expediting agent. I was there around the 2008 Olympics and visas were in high demand so lines were long and visas for US Citizens were frequently being rejected and/or shortened.

My first visa application in NYC was shortened and reduced to single entry. By going through a visa agency in Hong Kong I was able to get a one year multi-entry visa overnight for a relatively small processing fee.

The website looks super-shady, but I went to this place in person and had my photo taken and they got me the visa the next day. No line, no hassle. Forever Bright LTD.

14 Science Museum Rd,Tsimshatsui East,Kowloon,H.K Rm 916-7, 9/F,New Mandarin Plaza,Tower B

Google Map

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    I agree that an agency is really a big help. 'China Travel Service' have many branches in Hong Kong and have done a good job on advising my visa situation. ctshk.com/english/useful/chinesevisa.htm
    – user5043
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 15:17

Too late now, but they usually reject it in Hong Kong unless you have an old Chinese VISA on your passport already. If you did have an old Chinese VISA, I think it's still a next-day thing (apply today, and get it tomorrow deal).


Very late to the party, but -

Already for a few years ( 2014-ish ) the Chinese consulate in HK does not issue a Chinese visa for people who do not apply with an HK ID.

This policy might change periodically ( like any Chinese policy ) but it is the general rule of thumb. Exceptions might be also considered for some special visa types / visit reasons ( diplomatic, Medical visit, emergency , family visit etc. )

UPDATE ( after comment )

well, it appears that from Jan.2018 the visa application process has been moved to a dedicated "Chinese Visa Application Service Center", and is not even processed anymore in the consulate like my original answer.

On their website, you can find this ( typ-o's in original ):

Applicants accepted by the Visa Centre: The Visa Centre can accept visa applications from foreign citizens staying in Hong Kong with appropriate residence permit, and those from foreign tourists staying in Hong Kong temporarily. However, it is strongly advised that foreign tourists make reasonable arrangement and get visas from Chinese embassy/consulate-general in the countries they reside or of their citizenship in advance.

so it might appear as though they can now process tourist .. BUT

in another page it also states that :

Is it permitted for someone else to submit my application to the Visa Centre on my behalf?

For applicants age 14 to 70, the first time applying for a Chinese visa since 4th Dec 2017, you must submit both the visa application and fingerprint at the centre in person. If you have submitted the visa application and fingerprint in person since 4th Dec 2017, for the next 5 years you may entrust a third party to do it.

which at that point, you can make of it what you will.

But it seems to me that in the case where your fingerprint was not collected, a 3rd party can not apply on your behalf ( but can "arrange" documentation probably.. )

The following is only personal opinion.

As a personal experience of over 15 years with Chinese visa regulations - I can only say that it is frequently updated and changed periodically and regionally. I can also say that a language like it is **strongly advised** that foreign tourists make reasonable arrangement and get visas from Chinese embassy/consulate-general in the countries they reside is a strong indicator in Chinese affairs.

But again, if an X-agency has some special way of doing that - than it is more than plausible and I am sure they know best.


in the CTS website, which is the "official" Chinese gov. backed travel agency, it is clearly declared ( on point 3 )

Proof of legal stay or residence status, or various valid certificates relevant to the visa.

again, broad language.. ( legal stay can be also a passport of a country that does not require a visa to hk with an entry slip ) but still.

in fact, if you dig in to the same website in the question, you will find that my answer seems to be correct for multiple entries , as the required documents are :

  • Passport
  • Passport Photo
  • HKID Card

so it all seem to come to the type of visa required.

Final Opinion / Advice:

Don't count on it .

If you are in HK - Feel free to go and try. If you do - make sure you have the entry slip or get a copy at the immigration tower ( wan chai ).

If you are still in the US - get arranged before traveling.

I will try to pass in one of the agencies in the following days and will update if have any news.

  • Does this have any effect on the agencies mentioned that facilitate foreigners getting mainland visas while in HK? Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 1:52
  • @hippietrail - AFAIK - they will most probably tell you the same, unless they have some really strong ( and likely expensive ) inner-consular connection. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 2:12
  • Hmm. After posting that comment I went to the site mentioned in the other answer and it has recent updates and also still lists detailed services including for foreigners along with pricing. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 2:45
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    @hippietrail - see my update Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 3:28
  • @hippietrail - after diggin further to same site mentioned in OP, the answer seems to be also related to single vs. multiple entry - which I also added.. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 3:53

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