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I've had a few Chinese tourist visas before, but I was always heading to China soon after getting the visa.

This time I'm thinking of getting a Chinese visa at home, where I can get a pretty flexible one, then travelling to a different destination for some months, where I would only be able to obtain a very limited Chinese visa, and later travel from there straight to China.

Since the visa is only valid for a certain length of time, I'm wondering if I can get one whose validity would only begin about the time I would be arriving in China, which would be some months after I obtained it in my own country.

Is this even a possibility?

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    Not an answer as I don't have an official source. I was told several times by the travel agency I use for Chinese visas, when I wanted to do something like this, that the first date of travel you fill in on the form is to make sure there's enough to get the visa (ie if you want to leave in 2 days, there might be a problem). And definitely not for later departures. "You want later, come later lah" I was told every time... – user67108 Aug 19 '18 at 6:22
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    When I applied for a study visa I remember that one could not apply too early but should do so some 2-3 months before at the earliest. Same as @dda since this is not an official source and a different visa category. – mts Aug 19 '18 at 10:55
  • @mts Standard single entry Chinese visas only allow entry in a three month window after issue. Of course that doesn't affect the maximum permissible stay, which is usually 30 days, although longer ones apparently exist. – origimbo Aug 19 '18 at 22:20
  • @origimbo: What about standard double entries visas? I've had single and double entry visas before with 30 and 60 day entries. But I don't remember all the other rules/limits anymore. And are there visas other than "standard" ones? – hippietrail Aug 19 '18 at 23:40
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    @hippietrail there are plenty of other visas, but they are specific-purpose visas, not visitor visas. – George Y. Aug 20 '18 at 3:32
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As mentioned by George Y., there's (technically) no "valid from" date. I had a look at my last visa (I have dozens of them), and there are actually two dates in a row:

ENTER BEFORE: 12AUG2018
ISSUE DATE: 12FEB2018

Real dates from my last visa. This was a six-month visa. As you can see, the expiry date (ENTER BEFORE) is exactly 6 months (and one day) after the ISSUE DATE, which makes the latter the date from which the visa is valid: as soon as the visa is produced, its validity starts.

As I said in a comment above, I was told several times by the travel agency I use for Chinese visas that the first date of travel you fill in on the form is to make sure there's enough time to get the visa (ie if you want to leave in 2 days, there might be a problem, as the processing time for French passports is 5 working days). And it is definitely not for later departures. "You want later, come later lah" I was told every time...

So all in all, I would say that if you want a visa with a later start date, you'll have to do it later. One solution came to me (as I might use it myself: I can get a one-year visa in France, but not in HK...). If your country allows two passports, leave one with family/friends, along with photo, form, etc. Have them apply for you (either directly or via a travel agency) in due time, and courier the passport to wherever you are.

  • I've tried to get a one year visa every time I've applied but the most I've ever been given is two entries of two months each, even when applying at home in Australia. I've never been able to get the staff to explain what I should do to get a longer visa. I believe I've posted questions on the topic here on TSE. We don't allow two passports here. – hippietrail Aug 21 '18 at 16:26
  • Another, slightly butt-cheeks-clinching, option is to DHL/FedEx your passport back home, with form, photo, etc, and have family, friends, etc apply for you and courier back. You'd need obviously to be able to wait in one place for about a week. – user67108 Aug 22 '18 at 13:09
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Every Chinese visa I had did not contain the "valid from" date at all. It only contained "issue date" and "enter before" (i.e. expiration date). Assuming the visa sticker is the same for all countries, I don't see how this could be implemented in practice.

And at least for US citizens the visa application form does not allow you to specify the date you want your visa to be valid from. Since there is no interview (you just pass the paperwork to a clerk who checks it for validity), there doesn't even seem to be a way to communicate this information.

Thus in my opinion this is not possible at least for US citizens. However US citizens can obtain 10-year Chinese visas, so this is not really a concern.

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