Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Step by Step Guide to Chinese Visa Application for Filipinos


IMPORTANT NOTE: Guide to Chinese Visa application has been updated on 31 March 2013. See newer version of this guide here: How to Apply for a Tourist Visa to China.


So you have booked your flights to Beijing totally excited about seeing the Forbidden City and the Great Wall for the first time. You realize, however, China may very well be the first country you will be traveling to where you will be needing a tourist visa. That is because for most of Southeast Asia, Filipinos are not required a visa to enter. We can all zip in and zip out. China, however, does require most nationalities (Filipinos included) a visa prior to arrival. The good news is that China has a pretty organized visa application process. Having been through it, let me share what I learned about the whole thing.

Great Wall, Mutianyu

STEP 1: PREPARE YOUR DOCUMENTS

As with any other immigration procedure, you will need documents to prove your identity, and in the case of the Chinese visa, your financial standing as well. Below are the complete list of requirements.

Valid Passport The passport must at least have 6 months validity and blank pages.
Passport Emergency Contact Page Aside from the passport itself, you also need to submit a photocopy of the emergency contact information page (the back page of the passport), which should have been completely filled out.
Photo
(passport-size or 2x2)
We all know the drill here. Colored, white background, well-kept hair, collared shirt, full-face front view, no eyewear and definitely no headgear. Glue, not staple, the photo to the application form. And they do not accept scanned photos.
Invitation Letter
(with a copy of the inviter's valid Chinese residence visa and passport information page or Chinese national identity card)
When we applied for our visas early this year, this was not a requirement. Rather, you have a choice between this or hotel reservations. Since no one was really inviting us to go to China, we had to book our hostels beforehand. However, when I checked the website of the Chinese Embassy in Manila this week, hotel reservations are no longer mentioned in the requirements. So it may no longer be an option.

How to go around this? What I would do is make arrangements with my hotel. Ask if they could help with this. If that doesn't work, a China-based tour company could certainly accommodate this. (Agree? Any other suggestions? Do leave a comment below!)
Proof of No Derogatory Record For Filipinos, this will be the NBI Clearance. The kind that is valid for travel abroad, of course.
Proof of Financial Standing (updated on the month of your visa application) For most people, a bank certificate or passbook for your bank account will do. The certificate must be updated within the month you are applying. And you need to include the receipt for when you purchased the certificate itself. The money seen here is sort of an assurance that you have the ability to fund your travels, that you are indeed a tourist with money to burn on this trip.

One thing to remember though is they may require that the bank certificate indicate the date when the account was opened. This is their assurance that you did not just open the bank account last week, borrowed money and placed it there to have immigration officials think you have the financial capability to be a foreign tourist. So the older the account, the better. And of course, the more money, the better.

For Filipinos with a Banco de Oro account (such as myself), you will bummed to know that BDO's bank certificate does not indicate this date. As a solution, I asked for the first page of my bank statement aside from my bank certificate. The first page of the bank statement will indicate when you opened the account.

If your trip will be sponsored by another person, then it is their bank certificate that's required, along with a sponsorship letter. If a company will sponsor the trip, then you need to present the company's bank certificate and business registration along with your sponsorship letter. If a Chinese citizen will sponsor the trip, you will need his bank certificate, sponsorship and invitation letter, a copy of his valid residence visa and passport information page or Chinese national ID. (See Note 4 below.)


IMPORTANT NOTE: Guide to Chinese Visa application has been updated on 31 March 2013. See newer version of this guide here: How to Apply for a Tourist Visa to China.


Additional requirements for specific people:

Employed personsPhotocopy of Company ID
Photocopy of Social Security System (SSS) ID (If not available, the pink slip will do.)
SSS contributions (Print-out from the SSS website will do)
Photocopy of Tax Identification Numer (TIN) ID
Photocopy of latest Income Tax Return (ITR) Statement (BIR 2316)
StudentsPhotocopy of School ID
BusinessmenPhotocopy of business registration
Photocopy of TIN ID
Photocopy of latest ITR

Some notes:
1.Employed persons and students refer to people who are employed or students in their home country. A work visa or a student visa is an entirely different visa altogether.
2.Applicants 16-21 years old, personal appearance is required.
3.Visa officers may request other documents, if necessary.
4.It is not specifically stated in the requirements list of the Chinese Embassy that an applicant's sponsor could be a person without Chinese citizenship, a Filipino citizen, for example. However, I know of a friend, Filipino, who did not have to submit any other requirements because her father, Filipino, sponsored the whole thing. They were all granted visas and traveled to China without any immigration hitch.
5.The requirements stated above are for first-time applicants. For those who have been granted Chinese tourist visas before, you do not need to present proof of no derogatory record, proof of financial standing, and any other documents in the table for additional requirements for specific people.
6.When we applied early this year, we were also required to present our round-trip flights. If you check the Chinese Embassy website, this is no longer required. I think this is good because entry by land to China is very possible. However, I do think Filipinos will still be required to present these. According to my travel partner's experience applying for another visa, an Indian Visa, the foreign consulates here in the Philippines received a directive from Philippine Immigration that requires all visa applicants confirmed flights. So there.
7.Take note because THIS IS IMPORTANT. Document requirements and visa procedures in general do change. Surprise! I can attest to that obviously. The Chinese Embassy used to accept hotel reservations in lieu of a letter of invitation. Now, it's not even mentioned in the requirements list. And as I said in No. 6 above, round-trip flight tickets are no longer required. Apparently, they changed the rules about a couple of months from the time we applied. So really do not rely solely only on this guide. At the very least, skim through the consular services section of the Chinese Embassy website. I will try to update this guide from time to time so that it reflects current procedures. But I can only do so much. Again, consult the Chinese Embassy website.

Forbidden City


STEP 2: PREPARE YOUR VISA FEE

Below is the schedule of visa fees for holders of Philippine passports who apply directly at the Chinese Embassy. Asking a travel agency to process the visa for you may imply a few additional bucks. I'll discuss the options for application submission in Step 4. Fees are quoted in Philippine peso.

Number of EntriesFee (in PHP)
Single Entry1,400
Double Entry2,100
Multiple Entry valid for six months2,800
Multiple Entry valid for twelve months4,200

The regular processing time is 4 working days. If you need a rush job, then you need to pay up: an additional 1,100 PHP for three-day processing and 1,700 PHP for next-day processing.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Guide to Chinese Visa application has been updated on 31 March 2013. See newer version of this guide here: How to Apply for a Tourist Visa to China.


STEP 3: FILL OUT THE APPLICATION FORM

Along with your documents, you will need to submit the Chinese Visa application form. You can download it at the Chinese Embassy website.

Some notes:
1.Chinese visa officers do not take too well with journalists/writers. In fact, they have a specific box for this type of occupation in the application form. One travel agency I went to reported that they once processed the visa application of a journalist/writer but at the end of it, the visa was denied by the embassy. I'm sure that this does not apply to all cases. Journalists have been able to enter China. If you are doing some type of news coverage in China or will be working as a resident correspondent there, then you have your specific visa application guidelines for journalists. If you are a journalist or a writer and are going to China not for business but for vacation, the best you can do really is submit all required documents and hope against hope that you be granted a visa. Their country, their rules.
2.You can use the blank space for any other declarations. The thing was, my employment situation was a bit complicated at the time of my application. Back then, I just quit my job and just started doing part-time work for another company. Thus, some of my employment documents were still associated to my old company. I had to explain this in the declarations box. I'm not sure if it helped at all. But I say it wouldn't hurt.
Temple of Heaven


STEP 4: SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION

For this step, you have two options: (1) course your application through a travel agency (who will charge a processing fee, of course); or, (2) go to the Chinese embassy yourself to submit your application. Fortunately, I can write about both. I went the first route. A friend of mine, Rachel, did the second route and she described to me the whole process.

Option 01: Travel Agency

As I mentioned above, I was doing part-time work for a company at the time of my application. Fortunately for me, the company was a local travel agency. So, they kindly assisted me in the application. I had to pay the company's standard processing fee, however, which was 2,500 PHP, inclusive of the regular single-entry visa processing fee. But that's alright. Saved me the trouble of submitting it myself. This is simple as going to your most trusted travel agency, handing them your documents, and paying their fees.

Option 02: Directly at the Embassy
1.Having completed all the required documents, you need to go to the Chinese Embassy at World Center Building, 330 Buendia Avenue (Gil Puyat), Makati City before 8 a.m. There's already a line for applicants outside the building even before working hours. The line's not like NBI's or Comelec's program for late registrants, Rachel says. It's tolerable, and yes, they're organized.
2.Once the office is open, you'll be directed to an officer who issues you a number. You can then sit down inside and wait for your number to be called.
3.Once you're number has been flashed, go to the window assigned to you and submit all your documents. Do not panic if the officer asks you a few questions. Rachel says she remembers being asked about the nature of her employment. You have to answer in Chinese though. Else, you're visa is denied. We're kidding, of course! But you may need to answer a few questions right there and then. Relax. If everything's fine, the officer will give you a slip of paper indicating the date on when you should claim your visa.
4.After that, you have to fall in line to pay for the processing fee. You go home after that.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Guide to Chinese Visa application has been updated on 31 March 2013. See newer version of this guide here: How to Apply for a Tourist Visa to China.


STEP 5: CLAIM YOUR PASSPORT

This part is the easiest. If you applied through a travel agency, you only need to wait for their notification that your passport, now with a Chinese visa, is ready for claiming. If you opted to apply directly at the Chinese embassy, then you need to show up to claim your passport, also now with a Chinese visa, on the date written on the slip of paper the visa officer gave you when you submitted your application. Easy breezy. You're practically on your way to seeing one of the oldest and most fascinating countries in the world.


Was this any helpful? Did I miss anything? Anything incorrect? Do you have any questions you think I could address? Have you applied for a Chinese visa before? How was your experience?


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