I'm planning a trip to Shanghai to visit some friends in about 5 months. I understand that I will need to get a visa issued so that I can travel to China.

This will be the first time I've applied for a visa, so I'm not 100% sure how to go about doing this. According to the Chinese embassy in the US website, mailed applications are not accepted.

There is a Chinese consulate a few hours from where I live, so I figured I'd take a road trip and get everything taken care of in-person.

Am I going about this the correct way, or is there a better way to get the visa?

  • The chicago office is very fast, and if you get there before noon, you can have it that afternoon. Just follow the directions for the visa you want, likely an L.
    – MaoYiyi
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 4:30

4 Answers 4


When in doubt, follow the instructions given by the foreign consulate. You can't really go wrong; worst case, they'll tell you what to do and it shouldn't be a radical difference from the posted information. They seem to process things very quickly, and the process is very similar to the process for getting a US visa from Canada (which I've done). So I will answer as if you have not read the page you linked :P

Yes, you need to submit your application at the embassy or consulate.

This page (possibly now outdated) has the details for the "L" tourist visa. Previously the submission requirements included:

  • Your US passport and a copy of its information page
  • A photo of yourself, subject to the usual requirements of size etc.
  • The completed visa application form
  • $130
  • 3
    haha thanks; let's just say I didn't like what I read and was hoping there was another (easier) way that seasoned travelers might be familiar with.
    – user82
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 18:17
  • @todofixthis what is there not to like about that? YOu want some illegal method?
    – MaoYiyi
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 4:30
  • In this case the instructions given by the consulate are just wrong. There are many companies which you can send your China visa application to and then they take it to the consulate and mail the visa back to you (google "china visa service"). The consulate surely knows about this and I've used such services twice (in 2008 and 2012) without any problem. The consulate even gave me multiple entry visas both times! Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 19:05
  • @JohnPardon You should consider fleshing out user82's answer with more detail, or posting your own :) Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 20:53

I discovered the other day that there are companies who will do the footwork for you (for a fee). For an example, see http://www.mychinavisa.com/tourist.php.

We ended up using China Visa Service Center (mychinavisa.com), and we now have our visas. It cost an extra $124 for service fees and shipping, but it saved us the trouble of having to go down to Houston, and they were very professional about the entire process.


In Australia you have two options:

If you go to the consulate yourself then you need to make a return trip to pick up the visa yourself, so be careful about planning a road trip because you will likely end up needing to make 2!

I don't know about major travel agencies, but the Chinese travel agents always get the visas for me, but they charge us an extra $20 per person approx.

So I suggest you ask where you buy your tickets, you may be in luck and not have to go the distance yourself.

Also for the past X number of years the visa application form on the Australian consulate site has been out of date so you end up having to fill out the form again once you get there which may be a problem if you need to collect signatures.

Final bit of advice, check the opening hours from the website as I know ours is only open half a day on Saturday and not open Sunday, and I think they don't open before 10am on a weekday. So just check these times if you are planning on driving there.


According to the website,

"2.If you cannot come in person, you may entrust someone else or a travel/visa agent to drop off your application at the visa office of the Embassy or Consulate -General which holds consular jurisdiction over the state where you reside;"

So, no, you don't have to drop off/pick up your visa in person. But SOMEONE has to visit the consulate with the materials. That could be a relative, friend, or travel agent.

The Chinese don't trust the mails.

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