The Visa Process in China

I have been getting emails from adoptive families curious about the details of our adventure.  Rather than write an email to everyone who asks, I’ve decided to write a series of emails explaining the entire process.

Legal:  All of the information provided in this post is correct, as far as I know, on the date of publication.  Please always contact your school and your local Chinese Embassy or Consulate before traveling to China!

In 2010 our family made an extended trip to China. You can read about it here and here and here.  For that trip we were able to get 90-day multiple-entry visas at the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C.  We included a letter with our application stating that our children were born in China and that we intended to stay longer than 60 days so that they could learn more about the culture and practice their language skills. The Embassy seemed happy about that and granted our request.

If you are interested in this option, I believe that it is still available through the Embassy in D.C.  People from every state can apply through D.C.!  Please be aware that you must have a letter of invitation from a friend, relative, company, school or travel agency to get an L visa now.  You must also produce your round trip tickets and hotel reservations.  If you plan on renting an apartment, make sure your hotel reservations can be canceled.  We learned in 2010 (the hard way) that reservations through C*trip are not cancelable or refundable.

In 2012 all of our attempts to secure the 90-day visas failed (we were working with the Chinese Embassy in Mongolia) and so we entered the country on 40-day single-entry visas.   We also tried to get our student visas before we arrived, but that did not work either.   No Chinese Embassies are currently issuing student visas. It is a process that you must complete here, in China.

The following is a list of items you will want to make sure you have in your possession before you arrive in China if you are traveling here as a student:

1.  Your current passport with your L visa (60 or 90 day).  Make sure that your passport is over 1 year from expiring.  The expiration date for your student visa can be up to one year (if  you pay your full tuition) only if you passport does not expire before then.  The date that your student visa expires will be the same date that your passport expires if it expires before 1 year.

2. If you are bringing a spouse or dependent with you, you will need authenticated proof that your spouse and your child are truly related to you.  Start on this months in advance.  You must get new certified copies of your marriage and birth certificates.  You will then want to go through the process of getting them authenticated.

  • Send your marriage and birth certificates to the Secretary of State to apply for a cerficate.  Make sure you send them to the SoS where the documents orginated, not where you currently live if they are different.   The SoS will attach a legal document to the front of your certificate that verifies that this is an official document.
  • You will then send your documents (WITHOUT REMOVING THE SOS SEAL!) to the The Department of State where they will verify that the document from the State is official.
  • You will then send your you documents  to the Embassy of China so that they can attach their official approval.

Do not remove any of the approvals or alter these documents in ANY way.

Please visit the websites I linked here and follow their directions exactly.

You can save yourself a lot of time and hassle if you have a courier take care off this for you! I HIGHLY recommend my friend Laura Morrison for the job!  I have worked with Laura since 2000.  I used her for my own adoptions, for all of the work we needed done for our extended travel and I when I ran an adoption agency.

3. If you have dependents accompanying you that are adopted from China it is important that you bring their Chinese passport with you.  We have gone through the process twice now and were asked for it the first time, but not the second time.  We have friends here who are asked every time.  It is a requirement for getting an L visa in the U.S.  so we always have it with us just in case.

4. If you are an adoptive family, you may consider carrying your adoption paper work.   If you do not feel comfortable bringing the originals, at the very least bring copies.  We brought copies of the final decree from China and from the U.S. as well as a copy of their Citizenship papers.

When you arrive in China, you’ll want to collect the following:

1. When you have found an apartment to rent, the first thing you’ll want to do is the register with the local police station.  All you will need for this process is:

  • your passport,
  • your lease agreement,
  • and a photo copy of your landlords identification.  (The I.D. should be part of your lease paperwork, if not make sure this is something you get before the landlord leaves the rental office!)

The rental company, the landlord or the management office in your complex should be able to write down the address of the police station to show a taxi driver.   This process is very easy.  You just fill out the paperwork, give them your passport and then they will give you a paper that is your registration.  We are supposed to always have this with us, but we don’t.  We keep it in a safe place with all of our other documents.  You will need this registration for your visa application.

2. If you are a student, your school will give you a form (JW202 in Jiangsu Province) that indicates that you are a student and for what period of time.  They will only give you permission to get a student visa for the period of time that you have paid tuition for or one year, which ever is less.  If you are planning on staying longer than one semester, pay for a full year.  That will save you the cost (and time and effort) of renewing your visa every semester.   Make sure that the school knows how many family members are here in China with you!  Bring their passports with you when you show up for registration! (Depending on the Visa Officer at your school, they may want to see each family member in person!)  For each family member you will receive a Certificate for Visa that will also need to be turned in with their application.

3. Photo copies of of the passport photo page and the visa you entered on for everyone who is apply for a visa (you, your spouse, your dependents.)

4.  Passport photos for everyone applying for a visa.  You’ll need these to apply for the visa and for your medical, so have several made up in advance and just keep them with your paperwork.

5. If you are a student, you’ll need a medical.

  • Do not bother with this in the U.S.  They’ll make you do it over again when you get here.
  • Ask the school for the location of the medical office for this physical.  Go to the Chinese location, don’t bother paying extra at the SOS or international clinic.
  • These are not necessary for anyone under 18, and so does not apply to your dependents, but your spouse will need one.
  • The medical clinic folks will listen to your heart, take your blood pressure, examine ears, nose and throat, collect blood, do a chest x-ray and a perform a sonogram.
  • There is no vision, hearing, or nerve testing.  I’m pretty sure they are checking for HIV when they draw your blood.  We watched carefully and they did use new needles.

A few days later, you’ll come back and pick up your medicals and receive a copy of your x-ray.  The paper form that you receive is all you need to take for your visa so just take a gander at your x-ray for fun, and then file it away somewhere.

6. Money.  Ask your school exactly how much this will cost and bring the cash with you to the Exit Entry Office.  The visa office does not take Visa or Mastercard or even China’s Union Pay.  Sorry folks! The prices for visas at the time of this writing are Y800 for student visas and Y955  for 1 year multiple-entry L visas.   BTW, you can also leave the country and return on a student visa without worry.

Other steps you may consider:

One of the things we started doing in Mongolia and have continued here, is scanning in high-resolution color copies of all of our documents.  We haven’t needed the copies yet, but it would be a fantastic back up incase your originals were lost or stolen.

Another valuable tool we have been using is an expandable folder.We have found this to be the perfect way to keep everyones paperwork organized and in one place.  We were able to find plastic sleeves that fit our passports and social security cards perfectly, and after labeling a section for each family member, we used double sided tape to attach the sleeves to the inside of the folder.  Each person has their passport and their social security card attached to the front of their section, and their Chinese passports attached to the back of their section.  We have more sections than family members, so we also keep our rental information, school papers, etc. in their own section.  The folder has a special place in our home that is out of site, but that can also be easily accessed in an emergency.

Adoptive Families & Long Term Travel

My recommendation is to try and get a multiple entry 90 day visa so that all you need to do is leave the country and then return.  This is save you money and time waiting for a new visa.  Most people can get the 1 year multiple entry visa, but returning Chinese citizens can get a 2 year multiple entry visa.