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!
*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 100,000-200,000 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 Booking.com
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/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 (which 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.
Planning an Itinerary & Budget
Why is it important to prepare an itinerary and budget? How much money should you have in your bank account? Well, that depends on how much the entire trip is gonna cost you, and your itinerary and budget will go hand-in-hand with what your bank documents will show. Let’s say you plan to spend 10 days in Shanghai going on all the big tours and staying in 5-star hotels. That 50k in your bank simply isn’t going to cut it! To be safe, you should have at least double the amount of your projected expenses i.e. if the entire trip will cost 30k, have at least 60k in the bank.
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!
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.
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!