This trip is getting real people! Looks like someone is officially allowed into China!
The process of applying for my Visa to China was a bit tedious. There are several online companies that offer Visa services to complete the process for you for about $90, but there is a Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, and I thought it would be a fun adventure to go through the process on my own…
In retrospect, I will probably use a Visa service next time and forgo the two trips to San Francisco and hours of lines, but I’m happy that I had this experience at least once.
The application process itself was tedious but pretty straight forward. I had to put very detailed information with addresses for every location I was staying in, airline reservations, family members and their occupations, etc. etc.
This unfortunately meant booking a flight out of China before I’d had much of an opportunity to do trip planning, but I wanted to make sure I’d allowed plenty of time for the process. I read later on that many people choose to book a refundable airline ticket the morning of their first trip to the consulate, and then they cancel the flight for a full refund. The embassy simply needs a copy of the reservation as proof that you have plans to leave the country before your visa limits expire.
Fortunately my Hostel accommodations are all flexible and can easily be changed, and my flight from Hong Kong to Manila was only $80, so worse case scenario if I’m loving China I can always stay a bit longer.
The Chinese Consulate website clearly laid out details about what was required and I’d filled out my application (2 copies), taken my visa photos at Walgreens, and made a copy of my passport and travel reservations all in advance. It had recommended being at the consulate prior to the 9am opening to avoid lines… something which quickly didn’t happen due to traffic. Thus upon arrival… I waited. Luckily there was an abundance of Free Magazines available to read as I waited for my ticket to be called. 🙂
When my number was called about 2 hours after arriving I made my way to the window and handed over my paperwork. Everything was carefully inspected, and with a bit of sign language I clarified a few items on my application, then woman handed me a receipt and said “next Tuesday” and just walked away from the window.
I several minutes for her to come back, as she still had my passport, when she did come back she asked why I was still there, and I explained that she’d forgotten to give me back my passport. She then said “next Tuesday” and motioned for me to leave her window, so I did. Apparently… they keep your passport and apply the visa inside of it, and so I left my passport at the consulate and left with my receipt!
Side Note: is this common for all consulates? What if you’re travelling and need a visa… don’t you need to have your passport in your possession at all times? Topics that I clearly will need to read up on before my trip…
I came back the following Friday (they will hold onto your visa for up to three months) and after showing my receipt at the collections counter and waiting in a few more short lines, I presented my Drivers License and paid $140 and was given back my passport with my shiny new Chinese Visa pasted inside.
And just like that… I was ready to go to China!
For your viewing pleasure… here is a remix of Trump saying “China” because thanks to Armstrong and Getty I have the urge to say pronounce China exactly like Donald Trump every single time that I hear it now!