Obtaining a Chinese Visa
Congratulations! You just booked yourself a new job in China! It is an exciting, upbeat, modern, place while still maintaining the traditional quality of life. However, the restrictions for traveling to China can be quite daunting as they are different in each province, change often, and are a little confusing. I was heading to China the first ESL teaching go-around but never made it because my Visa didn’t work out—it turns out they changed a policy right before I was scheduled to head out. This time the policies did not change but it was still quite cumbersome. Here is my experience obtaining a Chinese Visa!
1. Forms Galore
Finding a job in China isn’t too hard as long as you have the right credentials. Once you find a school you like you will need to fill out an application. When they accept you, they will send you a background check to sign, a contract, and a health check to complete. Sometimes these items are in Chinese, sometimes they can be roughly translated. It can get a little confusing what information to put where. Either contact your school or agency for help!
The first physical hurdle to get through is the health check. This can be pretty tricky as the things they want to check are not very common things to check for in western countries. You will also need to obtain stamps from your doctor—one at the end of the form and one over a picture of you to make things official. It can be even trickier if you are between overseas jobs and without insurance.
Rest assured, there are clinics that tell you exactly how much things will cost without insurance. They usually do health checks for factory employees or various homecare employees. I went to Concentra but there might be a specialty local clinic where you live. It can be quite expensive and intrusive—be sure to wear loose clothes and keep track of the forms they give you. If you receive copies of the health check forms and have your doctor stamp those as well you might be able to skip the health check when you apply for residency in China.
This was the hardest part of my journey! After you complete your healthcheck and send it to your employer, they will apply with the government for an invitation letter—your Visa. This can take up to 20 days, so sit tight! When your paperwork arrives, it’s time to go to the consulate!
Depending on where you live there will be a designated consulate for your region. The website can be confusing as it is in Chinese. It wasn’t too clear where things were on the website for me. I thought I had all my documents together—passport, self-addressed envelope, invitation letters, and forms from the website filled out. I was ready to drive a couple hours to turn my passport over!
My consulate was located in downtown Chicago. This was about 2 to 3 hours away. However, there were people who drove much further. My consulate was only open from 9:30 to 2:30 with an hour lunch break in the middle. There were only 2 people working—one for foreign visas, (Americans trying to obtain their Chinese visa), the other for Chinese visas, (Chinese people trying to renew their American visas). It was beginning to look like a precarious situation.
I got to the window five minutes to noon and the worker took one look at my paperwork, told me I had the wrong form, and I had to go fill out and print a new on at the Kinkos down the road.
I took a trip down the road to find Kinkos charges 35 cents a minute to use the computer. It’s very difficult to find
the correct form, (the worker told me not to google it). It is behind a link that is blacked out so it doesn’t look like a link at all. I filled it out, printed it, and made my way back to the consulate. I took a number before I went to ensure I would be one of the first at the window upon my return.
Not the case! Apparently many people grabbed a number before me and my number was teetering towards closing time. I couldn’t stay in Chicago or drive home and back! I took my forms to the window as soon as I saw a worker and, thank goodness, they took them. However, they did not take my self-addressed envelope as they do not send passports that way anymore. I made the trip back to Chicago a week later—the process to pick up your completed visa was much easier—get in line, pay, leave.
Here are the links to the (correct) paperwork: http://www.chinaconsulatechicago.org/eng/ywzn/qzhz/qz/
(Make sure to get v2013!)
Obtaining a Chinese visa is fairly easy but there are some nuances I hope this article helped troubleshoot. Good luck and have fun in China!