If you are traveling independently, either as a tourist or business visitor, you must obtain a China visa before entry in to China. Applications should be made through Chinese embassies or consular offices in your country. If you are entering through Hong Kong visas are easily obtained from various travel agencies, including CITS, CTS and the Foreign Ministry of the People’s Republic of China. Visa applications can be processed on the same day j m Hong Kong, though if you can wait two or three days the cost is considerably reduced. One to three month tourist visas (L visas) are readily available as well as business visas (F visas) which can be issued for up to one year, including multiple entries. Just one passport photograph and a completed application form are necessary. Generally business visas issued overseas will require an official letter from the official host organization in China, whereas in Hong Kong this regulation can be waived. Tourist visas can only be extended once in Beijing or Shanghai for a maximum period of one month.
Bona fide business visitors from certain countries may stay in Beijing and Shanghai for up to 48 hours without a visa. Check with your local Chinese Consulate should you wish to use this facility.
Tourists entering China as part of a group may have a document listing members details on a single group visa prepared by their tour operator and handled by the tour leader or allotted group member. These are valid for the duration of the tour only and the whole group must enter and leave China together. However, some companies ask that you obtain your own visa to give greater flexibility to group participants who may add on optional tours to the beginning or end of standard tour itineraries. This also obviates any difficulties in amending the group visa that would result in a group member being unable to complete the tour.
Border formalities are generally painless and efficient. Those on individual visas receive entry and exit stamps and must complete entry and departure forms. ‘Those on group visas do not receive passport stamps and are not required to complete entry or departure forms. Health declaration Forms are issued on the journey to China and should be handed over on arrival. Your passport should be valid for at least six months after your departure from China.
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