How I got a Chinese Visa without an Income Tax Return

How I Got a Chinese Visa without an Income Tax Return

This post is about my own experience in applying for a CHINESE TOURIST VISA in the Philippines. For all other visa types (business, student, family visit, etc), kindly refer to other resources 🙂

In October 2016, I won round-trip tickets for two to Shanghai courtesy of Air Asia. It was very exciting, considering that Shanghai is part of my list of Top Skylines I Wanted To See with My Own Eyes and also a shooting location for one of my all-time favorite films — “Her.

But, alas, one thing worried me: I would need a Chinese Visa. And my previous experiences with visa applications (once for the U.S. when I was 8 years old, and another for Australia when I graduated college — both times by my parents) were disappointing. Only the difference now is, I will be doing everything by myself with no reliance on my family.

But what do you know? I GOT IT!

chinese visa without income tax return

*cue happy dancing unicorns and rainbows of relief*

Preparing for the application wasn’t exactly a breeze for me, though.

I’ve spent many nights researching about visa applications because I didn’t want to lose this opportunity by being ignorant and repeating any mistakes. It didn’t help that the blogs I’ve read regarding Chinese visas all said that one’s bank account had to have at least 100,000 or even 200,000 pesos in it in order to qualify for one, which I found absolutely ridiculous (read more about “show money” here) if I’m only going to Shanghai for a couple of days. Nowhere in the embassy’s official website stated that six figures was a requirement (though of course it wouldn’t hurt!). But it still stressed me out. I had enough to bring on the trip of course, but it had me over-thinking just in case the rumours were true… Moreover, I also didn’t have an ITR (Income Tax Return) nor anyone to ask sponsorship from.

So how was I granted a visa? I don’t exactly know what tipped the scales in my favor, but if you’ll read on, perhaps you’ll learn some helpful tips from what I did!

Who will find this guide helpful?

It will be most helpful for those who are:
• freelancers or home-based contractors / remote workers without an ITR yet who are curious about obtaining a visa;
• and honest, sincere people who genuinely want to travel for tourism purposes and have no intention of illegally working or overstaying their visit.

What are the basic requirements needed for the Chinese visa?

(Note: please always double-check and verify this list with the official one at the Chinese Embassy’s website as they may update it without notice)

1) Passport – Original passport that is valid for at least another 6 months with at least one blank visa page, a photocopy of the passport’s information/photo page and emergency contact page. The previous old passport, if available, is required to be submitted.

2) Visa Application Form – Submit truthfully-completed and signed Visa Application Form of the People’s Republic of China. Please type the answer in CAPITAL ENGLISH LETTERS in the space provided. DO NOT leave any field blank. Type N/A if the item does not apply. Application form of minors must be signed by their parents or legal guardians. Use a program like Adobe Acrobat Reader to digitally fill in the form and then print it along with everything else.

3) Photo – Provide 2 color photos and affix one of the photos on the Application Form. The photo should be recent, front view, white background, in 48mm x 33mm size without head covering. (Specific photo requirements, please click here). It’s important to glue your photo onto the application form as stapled/taped/clipped/detached photos will NOT be accepted.

4) Printed flight itinerary / reservation of round-trip airline ticket. Most people purchase their tickets ahead of time because of promo fares. Otherwise, if you don’t have that, save yourself the expensive risk of getting rejected and avail of this legit flight reservation service.

5) Printed hotel booking. Find accommodations that offer FREE CANCELLATION on

6) if applicable, an Invitation Letter (please see the full remarks here) from China and the photocopy of the inviter’s Chinese ID/Passport with Chinese Residence Permit.

If this is your FIRST TIME applying for a Chinese Visa, you’ll need to provide these additional requirements:

A) Bank Certificate of Deposit Balance (including the past 6 months bank statement) and the receipt for payment of this certificate. There is no fixed amount required in your bank account. You just have to make sure that your daily itinerary / schedule of activities / total cost of your trip matches your budget.

B) BIR-stamped Income Tax Return Form;

C) Certificate of Employment — detailing the position, salary, and length of employment as well as the dates of your granted leaves for the trip. For freelancers, perhaps you can provide your contracts with current clients;

D) Business Registration Certificate (if you are the owner);

E) Professional ID/Student ID (if applicable);

F) Other relevant documents proving the applicant’s economic condition/ employment/study, or supporting the applicant’s travel to China, or explaining the travel purpose. Basically, it’s always better to over-deliver and provide any proof that you do not intend on doing anything illegal in China and that you will return to your country within the number of days allotted to your stay, as well as have sufficient funds for your trip.

If you have ALREADY OBTAINED a Chinese Visa before, you should submit a photocopy of the visa, and if the visa is on your old passport, you should also submit the old passport.

Finally, I also highly recommend a Cover Letter, or a Letter of Explanation and detailed Itinerary & Budget of your trip (which I did!). You’ll see why in the following:

Writing a Letter of Explanation

As someone who works online, I did not have an ITR to provide and even if I worked towards getting one, there wasn’t enough time to do it before my scheduled flight, much less the visa application. This is where a Letter of Explanation comes in. I took it a step further by mentioning:

• the AirAsia award letter for my complimentary roundtrip flights;
• why I want to visit Shanghai;
• the exact dates of my flight and duration of stay;
• the countries I have visited and promptly returned from in the last 12 months (as can be verified in my passport);
• the reason I don’t currently have an ITR to show (which is my online work situation); furthermore backing my financial capability up by stating that I do get paid a monthly salary by my employer and attaching the signed COE (Certificate of Employment), including a screenshot of the recurring payments I receive via PayPal;
• And finally, an attached Itinerary & Budget for Shanghai that details the total expenses for the trip and the amount I will be bringing.

If you want a sample Letter of Explanation and Itinerary & Budget template, just sign up in the Subscriber Squad form below + leave a comment on this post, and I’ll grant you access to it!

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Going to the Chinese Embassy

There is no appointment needed. Just show up in the embassy (presently at the World Center building in Makati) between 8am – 11am, Monday to Friday. The door staff will check for your complete documents then hand you a number. Wait until it’s your turn to go up to the window and present your documents to the Consul. He/she may ask a couple of questions. In my case, he was looking for my ITR so I let him know that there is an attached Letter of Explanation for that. After that, you’ll be handed a slip containing the date of when you’ll be collecting your passport.

Regular processing time: 4 business days 
Single-Entry Visa: Php 1,400 
– You can only apply for Single-Entry if you are a First Time Applicant.
– Rush processing fees apply. Same goes for Double-Entry or Multi-Entry visas. Please refer to their website for the fees.
– Only cash payment is accepted.

Since I submitted my application on a Monday, I came back on Thursday to collect my passport. I took a number for the line at the cashier to pay the visa fee. After paying, I kept the receipt and waited for my turn to go up to the consul’s window and be given my passport back. The moment of truth! I frantically flipped through the pages of my passport until I saw the Chinese visa and felt a wash of happiness and relief over me.

Final Tips

Just a quick reminder that even after going through the whole process above, I don’t have the authority to 100% guarantee a visa approval. I’m just sharing what I know so far to score a higher chance and as always, do try to leave them with little to no reason why they shouldn’t grant you one! I did my best to really get this Chinese visa for the first time because 1) it will be a lot easier to acquire it a second time once you’ve already obtained one, and 2) I needed this boost in morale for other visas I will be applying for very soon, too.

One more thing if you’re headed to China: as you’ll know, the country has blocked plenty of websites & social media, so you’ll need to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in order to have access to and be able to upload that awesome snapshot on Instagram or Facebook. VPNs typically cost $8-$14 per month depending on your payment plan. I used ExpressVPN, and you can get a free month if you sign up with my referral link here. You’re welcome 🙂

Are you in a similar situation? Did you find this post helpful? Let me know what’s on your mind in the comments below!

Hannah is a visual creative and aspiring digital nomad based in Manila. When she's not pushing pixels, she can be found cuddling with her cat, chilling in cafés, adventuring with her amigas, or finding her next flight out. She enjoys tea lattes and making alliterations.


    1. Hello Hannah,

      Great article! Can you also send me that sample letter? Same as you I don’t have an ITR due to the nature of my job which is a freelancer and we’re thinking of travelling to China this April for the Canton Fair. Hopefully, maapprove kami.

  1. That’s awesome to win a round trip ticket abroad. And also scary too!

    Your case is my dilemma too. I do not have an ITR since I’m having an online job as well. But thanks to your post, it is very informative!

    1. Oh definitely — my feelings were confused because I was glad to have won it but then there’s the visa part I had to handle on the other hand haha

      I’m glad this post could help you in any way! Let me know if there’s more that I can fill in 🙂

  2. This is such a great article, this will really help me in the coming days.

    I’m in a similar situation (I won a round trip ticket + accommodation) and my trip is in two weeks! How long did you have to prepare your visa requirements? and what other documents did you present to prove that you’re really coming back to the PH?

    1. Hi Abby, which country are you going to? Each embassy has different processing times, and two weeks may be a little tight so I suggest submitting your application ASAP 🙂

      The Chinese Embassy only takes 4 working days to process a visa, so in my case I submitted my application on the 6th, got my visa on the 9th, and flew on the 17th.

      As for gathering documents, it just took me a day to get my bank statement & certificate from BDO and getting my photo taken according to the Chinese Embassy requirements. Then a couple of days asking my employer to provide me a COE and filling up the visa application form. Writing my Letter of Explanation together with a separate Itinerary & Budget took me the longest, at least a week! My main proof of coming back to the PH was the AirAsia award letter and flight itinerary 🙂 So use that!

      Let me know if you want my sample letter of explanation and itinerary & budget so I can email it to you 🙂

      1. Thanks Hannah, we’re also off to China! I would love to have a copy of the sample letter of explanation.

        Did Airasia send over some documents to help you with your Visa?

  3. What if I just recently resigned and still did not have my COE and ITR since I havent completed yet my exit clearance but I have a newly registered business, DTI/ COR and Mayors Permit.

    I am planning to give my 2015 ITR though and explanation letter?

    Is that ok?

    What do u think?

    Can u also send me a sample of your explanation letter?


      1. Thanks, Hannah!

        Will be submitting our application by Monday, Nov 6.

        Will definitely let you know.

        Got the sample explanation letter from you. Thanks much!

        Wish us luck! 🙂

  4. Hi, sorry to bother you with my inquiry. I hope you can share your thoughts about my case. I’ll be applying for a chinese tourist visa by next year. I’ve only traveled to 3 countries which requires no visa. I booked a flight for October 2018. My problem is that I’m an online English tutor. I do this full time and I can’t present an ITR nor COE kasi ang nature ng work ko is for part time though I do it full time. I work for a Chinese company based in Beijing and they send monthly salary by PayPal. I can present all necessary requirements and bank cert more than 50k except ITR and COE. Main reason ko to travel there is because I wanted to meet some of my close students that I met through my job. My trip will only be for 5 days. What are your thoughts about it? Any response is appreciated. Thank you so much! 🙂

    1. Hello! Sorry for the delayed reply. Since I didn’t have an ITR as well, I took to explaining the nature of my work in a letter as summarized in the bullet points above (I’ll email you my sample letter). A point to remember is: for every requirement you can’t provide, have something else to back it up. My German employer has never made a COE before so I actually had to provide a template for him to edit, approve, and put his signature on. Is it possible to ask your Chinese employer to make a COE for you, too? Or something else that proves that you work for them like contracts, etc? Write about your reason for travel as well (and maybe a list of places you plan to visit, it’s after all a “tourist” visa!)

    1. Hi! I assume you mean about what I’m usually asked at the immigration counters? It isn’t much and only two instances stood out to me:

      1) When the officer would ask me what kind of designer I was since there wasn’t enough space to fill in “GRAPHIC DESIGNER” as my occupation in the immigration form, lol. Then other questions like my place of birth (since I was born in Brunei).

      2) The time I travelled to Singapore solo, the IO just asked me questions like, “where are you staying and for how long?” I told him I didn’t memorize my hostel’s address, to which he told me to just write the hostel’s name in the form.

      That’s all so far. Perhaps I could write a short post on pre-departures 🙂

  5. Hi Hannah,

    I am applying for Tourist Visa in China
    Can you please give me a sample of Letter of Explanation of not having a bank certificate, However my employer is the one provides the Bank Certificate.

    1. Hi Ronnel, I’m not sure I understand… your bank certificate should be from your own bank account. If your employer is sponsoring your trip, I think there are other documents required for that (not sure because I’ve never done it before) or maybe apply for a Business visa rather than a Tourist one?

  6. hello po! 🙂
    Ask q po opinion niyo on my situation po. I will be applying for a tourist visa to China this month po pero ang problem q po is I don’t have ITR and at the same time my history kc aq ng offload(twice) last 2015, which at that time I am bound to Thailand. For other requirements po i can provide, ITR lng po tlga.. Tingin niyo po mga ilang percent po ang possibility na madeny ang application q po?
    Pahingi na rin po ng sample letters niyo po, thank you po.

    1. Hi Kaeyah, sample letter sent! I can’t really give an answer since I don’t know your whole situation. In my case kasi, remote/online worker po ako and not obligated to file one since I don’t earn income from here. So hopefully may valid reason talaga for you to not be able to provide an ITR 🙂

      1. actually po is online teacher po aq and yung company q is based in China as well as some of my private classes. I didn’t file an ITR since isa pa pong gastos, hehe..

  7. Hi! I am planning to go to China this march. I don’t have an ITR too since I am an independent contractor. Is it okay if I get a copy of your letter too? I’m really nervous. I hope I get approved since I already bought my tickets 🙁

  8. I think I can’t present a bank certification since it will only reflect my available balance, which is way too low. Most of my money has been in “hold” status by my BPI branch for the secured credit card they have issued me. It has 6-digit credit limit. I do not have ITR by the time I was applying for a credit card so I opted to convert my savings to a hold-out deposit for me to have one. Presently, I have a business, most of my earnings from my business are used as additional capital. I can present an ITR and my credit card statements. What do you think are my chances of having an approved Chinese Visa? Thank you.

    1. Hi! I’m really not sure as I’ve never experienced this. When I requested my bank certificate, my Average Daily Balance was pretty low but my current balance was high. I used this to explain in my letter where all the payments were coming from (my job and freelance projects).

      So perhaps present your bank certificate anyway, and explain everything in your letter. Good luck!

  9. Hi! I’m a home based independent contractor as well. I’m currently working for a company based in Singapore. I’m not sure if I should check employed or self employed on my visa form. 🙁 Am I considered as self-employed? I can provide a COE of my current employer.

  10. Hi, Hannah! I’m so happy na nakita ko tong article mo. My parents and I are also wishing to visit China for so long na. Particularly sa Guangzhou. My father has visited na there way back in 2009 pa when the visa application requirements were not so thorough pa unlike ngayon. I also still don’t have an ITR since I work in our family business filed and named under my parents’ names. And I just receive a monthly salary from my parents directly. So your guides and tips are very helpful.

    May I also ask a copy of your explanation letter? Thank you!

  11. Hi Hannah, such a useful article. I’m planning to file a Chinese visa too with no ITR and COE. Would love to get a copy of your sample letter and itinerary sana as I’m also planning to visit Shanghai this March. Thank you so much! ^_^

  12. great article! I also want to go to China but don’t have an ITR. Can you Kindly send me a copy? Also, do you have to pay even if ma-deny ka? Thanks!

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