There are five cities in Mainland China that can be reached from Manila through a direct flight: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Quanzhou. If you plan to visit any of the cities above for tourism purposes, or Shenzhen through the popular Hong Kong gateway, you need to secure a tourist visa also known as L-visa (unless of course you are a Filipino Diplomatic or Official passport holder).
Applying for the coveted China visa in the Philippines is a bit straight forward, however, the requirements gathering phase is a serious pain. I’ll be travelling to Beijing by the end of this month to experience yet another winter and my passport with visa stamp on it is ready to be picked up this week. In the course of this time-consuming task, here are the tips and tricks that I can share:
Unlike US visa application, there is no face-to-face interview involved therefore you don’t need to go to the China Embassy to apply personally. The flip side is, the receiving officer will solely rely on your documents to judge you so everything in the requirements list below should be available for first time applicants:
- Passport. Original passport that is valid for at least another 6 months with at least one blank visa page. If you have old/expired passports with visas, you should also bring them. Upon observation of my receiving officer, I noticed that she noted my Schengen and Australia visas which are both expired (aside from my valid US visa). I suspect that having first-world visas are plus points. Lastly, you also need to bring a photocopy of the passport’s information/photo page (first page) and emergency contact page (last page). You should fill out the last page – there are a lot of “rejection” cases because of this.
- Accomplished Visa application form. I saw printed forms in A4 or letter (8.5″ x 11″), and even printed back-to-back and it seems that the receiving officers don’t mind. You can download the form here. Do not leave any field blank. Write N/A if the question does not apply to you. Affix one color photo on the Application Form. The photo should be recent, front view, white background, in 48mm x 33mm size without head covering – although I saw forms with 2″ x 2″ pics which were still accepted. Glue the photo to the appropriate field. Stapled/taped/clipped/detached photos are not accepted. When you have your picture taken, there may be chances that the studio guy won’t know what the heck is the dimension for China visa. What they commonly know are those for US, Japan, Canada and Middle East purposes. Just tell them “48mm x 33mm” and you should be fine.
Here’s where you arrive at a crucial decision fork: to get a China invitation letter or not. Here are the pros and cons:
- Pros: If you have this invitation letter for tourist issued by an Authorized Travel Agency or other travel agencies in China, or an invitation letter from your relative/friend who must attach his/her personal ID copy, then you don’t need to present any document about your finances, employment or studies such as bank statements and certificates, ITR and Certificate of Employment (CoE).
- To obtain an invitation letter from a China travel agency, you need to pay for the processing and courier fees as the letter will be sent to you from China to Philippines, and also you will be required to take any of the tours they offer. You need to submit the actual letter with a red stamp on it together with the other requirements. I was able to contact two popular travel agencies: CTS charging USD 30 and China Absolute Tours charging USD 90. This doesn’t include the tours that you need to avail which costs USD 40 – USD 100/pax/day. Quite costly, to be honest.
- Cons: If you feel that securing a letter is too expensive for your taste, then you need to gather a bunch of requirements such as bank statements and certificates, ITR and CoE. Obtaining bank certificate (BC) is also a bit complicated as China embassy requires a different kind of certificate which most commercial banks do not follow. Your certificate should have an “Average Daily Balance” or ADB on it. China embassy site does not stipulate that your ADB should be higher than 100,000 pesos but it seems that this is an urgent legend. I know some friends whose ADB are below this amount but was able to get a visa a anyway. I got mine from BPI and the bank officer told me that the creation of BC is manually done in BPI just to cater to China embassy’s needs. As in they get your ADB (computed automatically though) and then they type in your ADB to the certificate manually. Pa-importante much, ‘no? LOL.
- Another tip: if you have multiple savings/current account in BPI, you can actually include all your accounts in one BC so that your figures will go higher (hopefully!). Ask for the BC receipt as you need to pay a minimal fee of 100 pesos and you also need to present this to the embassy. Also, BPI told me that they can’t reproduce bank statement up to six months. I don’t know the workaround here but the receiving officer asked for it. I just said BPI can’t issue transaction history up to six months and she returned my bank statement without blinking. I don’t know what just happened. LOL. Note that documents about time deposits, stocks or other investments are not accepted. You might need to liquidate your assets if needed. 😛
- Your CoE should detail your salary and the length of your employment. ITR should be BIR-stamped – although I think mine was not stamped but it was the only thing given to me by my company so I just submitted it anyway.
- For self-employed or dependents, unfortunately, I don’t have much tips for you. I hope the embassy site helps. 🙂
- You also need to print your round-trip airline ticket and hotel reservation. Tip: there are several hotels in China that you can book without any credit card guarantee needed. If you still don’t have any accommodations during the time of your submission, or you are afraid that you’ll get denied and you can’t refund your payment, then book these hotels/hostels.
And that’s it! If you have plenty of time to gather requirements and you have a significant proof of your financial capabilities, then I suggest you won’t be needing the expensive letter. Otherwise, get one. Note that the turnaround time from request to the actual receipt of the letter (through FedEx, 2GO, etc) is around four business days. Factor that in especially if your flight is upcoming.
Once you have your documents ready, you can go to the China Embassy located at The World Center, Gil Puyat Ave, Makati City. How to get there: From MRT Buendia station, ride a jeep to Washington. Alight at Mapua Makati campus near Malugay Street. Cross the pedestrian lane to the other side and the first tall bluish building is the World Center. From LRT Gil Puyat Station, ride a jeep to Bel-Air or MRT Buendia. Alight at Tordesillas Street (other side of Malugay Street) and walk to the first tall bluish building.
Enter the building, take the first left, then the staircase to the 2nd floor and you should be able to sense some commotion unless you arrived past 11 am and the visa application windows are already closed. There are applicants who usually arrive as early as 6 am just to be the first in line but note that the windows open by 9 am. I actually arrived 9:40 am (28th Dec: last working day of 2012) and got queue number 72. At that time, queue number 43 is being served.
Unlike the US embassy (the comparison once again), you can actually enter the premises with your electronic gadgets, however, usage of mobile phones are not allowed. Susutsutan ka ng security guard pero wala pa naman akong nakitang kinaladkad sa labas. LOL. You can get out of the room to take restroom break or have a cup of coffee from the nearest Starbucks Malugay if your number is like 50+ away. The atmosphere is so casual and noisy and you can see a lot of guys holding 10+ passports. Those are your travel agency representatives who are commonly from Binondo, Manila. Again, you can just submit your documents to a travel agency and they can submit to the embassy in your behalf for a fee. This is helpful when you can’t file for a leave, however, the processing fee is normally around 1,000 – 1,500 pesos.
After waiting for exactly 49 minutes, it was my turn. I had a slight issue with my bank statement as discussed above but over-all, it was a smooth transaction. I was given the most-coveted pink slip. Let’s discuss the important sections:
- Extra urgent is the date when you can claim your passport if you applied for rush service processing. Turnaround time is two working days but you need to pay additional 1,700 pesos.
- Urgent is the date when you can claim your passport if you applied for express service processing. Turnaround time is three working days but you need to pay additional 1,700 pesos.
- Regular is the date when you can claim your passport if you applied for regular service processing. Turnaround time is four working days and you don’t need to pay anything extra.
- To be inquired on is the date when you need to go back and check whether your visa has been approved or rejected. One of the applicants in front of me got this after a lengthy discussion with the receiving officer. I’m not sure if they can get the passport on the same date or not.
Unlike South Korea visa that single entry visa application is for free (gratis), single-entry China visa application costs 1,400 pesos only to be paid when you are issued visa. This is quite good because you can apply as many times as you want every time you get rejected and you will not be charged. There is also no “denied” stamp to your passport which means that the receiving officer will not know you were previously rejected (unless you made a clear bad impression! LOL). These are not the case for US visa which is very expensive!
I hope this helps! I look forward to see China ’cause I’m so tired of visiting Chinatowns! 🙂
World Center building image was taken from http://www.colliersid.com/3934/.