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China & Hong Kong/China visa from Thailand & 10-year visa

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QUESTION: Hi,

I am an American going to visit my friend in Quindao this year, so it will be a tourist visa. My visit is open-ended, perhaps 3-6 months. I am now in the US, and planning to go to Bangkok before China. I have been looking at visa information, but I am confused. My first question is, do you recommend applying here in the US or instead in Bangkok? Secondly, can I get a visa that will last for several months? And thirdly, do I need to purchase a departure ticket leaving China to get the visa? Because I am not sure as to when I would leave. Many thanks.

ANSWER: China's visa rules for foreigners are constantly in flux and is one of the biggest sources of exasperation for expats and tourists alike. They literally change daily depending on the current political climate between China and X country. I have been told that obtaining a visa from Bangkok is easy and expedient, much more so than from other Asian countries or even the U.S.A. Once you are there, you can ask the visa office about the duration of your visa (tourist visas are usually 1-3 months depending on your nationality). As for departure tickets leaving from China, I have not heard that this is a requirement, but I'm sure the visa office in Bangkok will let you know either when. Hope this answer helps.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks, Tom. So I called a passport agency here in the US and they told me about a multiple entry, ten year visa that Americans can get (tourist status). Do you know about this? They seemed to think it was fairly easy to get, although plane flights and hotel reservations were required, which I don't know about yet.

I'll be staying with my friend, but would like to avoid putting her name on the visa application just as I don't want her to have to deal with any paperwork or responsibility for my stay. Any thoughts on this?

ANSWER: You can apply for the 10-year visa only from America. There is no guarantee you will get it, and it seems to be aimed more for frequently flyers between China and USA then one-off tourists. You have nothing to lose by applying, though you will need to show proof of hotel reservations and return flight.

Frequently Asked Questions about 10-Year Chinese Visas:

1) Who is eligible for a 10-year visa?
All US passport holders can apply for a 10-year multiple-entry visa in the following categories: tourist (L), business (M), and family visit (Q2 & S2). US passport holders who apply for a student visa (X) will get 5 years. 10-year visas are not available to non-US citizens.

2) How long can I stay in China on a 10-year visa?
For 10-year multiple-entry visas, the duration of stay (the number of days you can stay in China per entry) is 60 days for L & M visas; 90 days for S2 visas and 120 days for Q2 visas.

3) Can I still get a 10-year visa if I need longer stays in China?
If you wish to stay longer than what is allowed under a 10-year visa (60 days for L & M, 90 days for S2, 120 days for Q2), you must make a special request and provide documents showing reasons for such a request. It will then be handled on a case-by-case basis by the visa officer. Please keep in mind that such requests may complicate your application.

4) Can I work in China with a 10-year visa?
No. The 10-year visa is for short term tourist or business visits only. If you want to work in China, you must obtain a work visa.

5) Does it cost more to get a 10-year visa?
No. The cost of a 10-year visa is the same as other shorter term visas for US citizens.

6) Does it take longer to get a 10-year visa?
No. The processing time remains the same. CVSC has 4 levels of service, regular (6+ business days), express (4-5 business days), rush (2-3 business days) and emergency (24 hours).

7) Are there any special requirements for a 10-year visa?
No. The requirements for a 10-year visa are the same as that of a 1-year visa. Our website, www.mychinavisa.com, always has up to date information. You can check requirements by visiting our site.

8) My passport expires in less than 10 years. Can I still get the 10-year visa?
Yes. You can get a 10-year visa as long as your passport is valid for more than one year. Once you get a 10-year visa, you can travel on this passport even after it expires, provided it is used together with a valid new US passport bearing the same name, sex, date of birth and place of birth. If any changes are made to the above mentioned information on the new passport, you must apply for a new visa.

9) I'm going to China for a scientific conference. Can I get a 10-year visa?
No. As mentioned earlier, 10-year visas are only available in the L, M, Q2 and S2 categories. Among them, the M visa is for business people going to China for business and trade purposes. People who visit China for cultural and educational exchanges and academic conferences are granted F visas, which are generally good for 6 months or 1 year.

10) The Chinese Visa Application Form does not have a 10-year option. What do I do?
You can make a request for a 10-year visa on the Chinese Visa Application Form. On Section 2.2, you can choose "Other" and write "10 Years" in the blank space.

11) I just received a Chinese visa that is good for 1 year. Can I have it changed to 10 years?
No. The Chinese Embassy will not issue a new visa if your current visa has more than 3 months of validity remaining. You should use your current visa and apply for a new one when the current visa expires, at which time you will be able to get a 10-year visa as long as you apply for an L, M, Q2 or S2 visa.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi,

So I have an additional follow-up to this query. A US based passport agency is telling me I need to have a return plane ticket in and out of China and need to show my complete schedule and hotel itinerary. Ideally, I plan to travel for a couple months as a tourist and have no idea where I will be staying every night of my trip. So I'm not sure what I should do. On one hand I can show "reservations" of plane and hotel reservations, and I'm not sure how much to the letter I need to be. Another option is I can try to arrange a one-week trip to China with full details confirmed, and then use my (hopefully) re-entry visa to come back after that week and be free and open-ended like I intend. I'm having a hard time getting accurate information as to how precisely I need to follow the letter of the law when seeking this ten-year visa. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts?

Answer
Hi again. Unfortunately I am unable to help you further. Since I live IN China, the nuances of applying for a tourist visa are beyond me. What I can tell you is that the rules change daily, so nothing is certain and no answer is definitive, neither from the consulate nor from a for-profit agency. Sorry I can't be of help beyond what I have already told you. Good luck with everything!

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