Great Wall of China, here I come! Okay, not so fast. Why? Because the Chinese Embassy says so. But the ugly reality of visa hassles cannot kill the travel bug. A little patience will get you far, literally.
All visitors to China require a visa except for citizens from Brunei, Japan and Singapore. A Chinese visa covers almost the entire country. Almost because in some restricted areas like Tibet, an additional permit is required.
There are eight categories of visas:
C – flight attendant
D – resident
F – business or student visa
G – transit
J – journalist
L – travel
X – long-term student
Z – working
For this article, we’re mainly going to focus on the L or tourist visa. For Filipinos, it is best (if not required) to apply before leaving the Philippines. Some borders (and also Hong Kong) can process visas, yes, but policies may change without prior notice.
L/Tourist Visa Requirement for First-Timers (Filipinos):
1. Passport, also a photocopy of the bio (first) page and last page (with details of contact person in case of emergency). And oh, passort must have blank pages and at least 6 months valid before expiration.
2. Roundtrip plane ticket (if not coming back to the Philippines, must present an onward flight ticket)
3. Hotel booking or letter of invitation (from friend or relative living in China)
4. NBI Clearance, original copy, valid for travel abroad
5. SSS ID or E-1 or static information or contributions info (may be a print out from SSS online)
6. TIN ID or ITR
7. Bank certificate, should have at least 50k
8. Certificate of Employment
9. Accomplished visa application form (to be provided at the embassy) affixed with one passport-sized photo.
Update July 19, 2012:
On our recent embassy visit, the new requirements for first time applicants (paying for own travel expenses) are as follows:
1. Latest ITR with BIR-received stamp and issued for the last taxable year (original and photocopy).
2. Original bank certificate, account (current or savings) should be opened 6 months prior to applying for the visa. Account should have an average daily balance AND to-date/current balance of at least P100,000 per applicant (18 years old and above).
In addition to the bank certificate, submit the following supporting documents:
a) Statement of accounts detailing transactions for 6 months prior to applying for visa (original and photocopy of all pages).
b) Or passbook detailing transactions for 6 months prior to applying for visa (original and photocopy of all pages).
If you’ve already been provided a visa before (or a citizen from Australia, Canada, EU, New Zealand or U.S.A), you may just submit: passport (with photocopies), accomplished visa application form with photo, plane ticket, and hotel booking. Your passport must have the old Chinese Visa sticker, otherwise, you’ll be considered a first timer and you must submit all the other requirements.
If you cannot provide a certificate of employment, the bank certificate will do. Or bring an old COE. I was (and still am) unemployed when I applied for the Chinese visa, so I submitted an old U.A.E. work visa to prove that I was an OFW and am currently on vacation.
Do not rely on the embassy’s website. It may not be updated.
Where to apply:
World Center (2nd & 3rd Floor), 330 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City
Just ask at the reception where the Chinese Embassy is, and they will point which direction the stairs to the 2nd floor is located.
Be early. Really early. Although the embassy’s office hours run from 9AM-12NN and 1PM-3PM, they only accept applicants until 11AM. And it’s highly likely that there would be 100 people on queue before your turn. You’ll be given a number, so you may go in and out the embassy for a snack or a drag break.
When your number’s called (or flashed on the digital screen), you proceed to the visa counter and submit the documents. The assessor may peruse the requirements without saying a word. If you lack any, he/she will say so right then and there (or they’ll call you within the day). You will then be provided the pink slip, which is the claim stub (if approved) for you to present when you come back after 4 working days.
Visa fees (regular processing) are as follows:
Philippines Passport P1,400
U.S.A. Passport P2,500
Other foreign passports P1,700
Visa must be used within 3 months of the date of issue (this is indicated on the visa sticker), and is good for 30 days from date you enter China. Penalty for overstaying is up to Y500 a day.
If you don’t want to deal with the embassy, there are numerous travel agencies that offer visa assistance. In Malate and Ermita, most agencies charge P1,500-P3,000 on top of the actual visa fee. Agencies in Makati charge cheaper because the embassy’s just within the area.
My (unpaid) recommendation, The Flight Shop. Truth is, we asked for visa assistance because I lacked SSS ID/E-1 and certificate of employment. They charge an affordable P500 service fee. If interested, you may visit them at 2nd Floor Bankmer Building, 6756 Ayala Avenue Makati. Or call +632 8131951. It’s just across Makati Stock Exchange. McDonald’s is in the same building.