A complete guide to getting a Chinese tourist visa (2024)

Adam Rozsa

Planning a trip to China? Before you start booking flights, you’ll need to get your tourist visa sorted.

There are steps to follow and forms to fill in, but we’re here to guide you through the process. Read on for a full guide to the China tourist visa for US citizens - and how to get it.

And to cover your spending in China, we’ll take a quick look at the Wise card too.


How do I get a tourist visa for China from the US?

The China tourist visa, known as visa Type L, is for people visiting China for a vacation or tourist trip, or to spend time with family living there.

You can’t work, study or conduct any business activities on this visa, and you can only stay for a limited time.

To get it, you’ll need to complete an application form online. Then, make an appointment to submit your form and supporting documents in person at your nearest Visa Office.

These are found at Chinese Embassies and Consulates in these locations:

  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Washington D.C.

How long can you stay in China as a visitor?

With the tourist visa, you can stay in China for up to 90 days. This is a single entry visa, but you can also get a double entry visa valid for 6 months. Or a multiple-entry visa valid for 1 year.¹

Are tourist visas open for China?

Yes, following the Covid-19 pandemic, China resumed issuing visa types to all foreigners in March 2023.² This means that applications for the China tourist visa for US citizens will now be accepted.

China tourist visa requirements

Before you can apply for your China tourist visa, you’ll need to get your documents together. Here’s what you’ll need:³

  • A valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining and at least two blank pages
  • A photocopy of the bio page of the passport
  • Round-trip air tickets and proof of hotel reservations, or an invitation from a company like a travel agency
  • Your completed COVA Visa Application Form.

You might also need to provide proof of residence and a signed form confirming that you’re living in the United States. Plus, a health declaration showing you’re medically clear to enter the country and have health coverage if needed.

Applying for your tourist visa to China - step-by-step

Now that you know what documents you need, you’re about ready to apply for your tourist visa.

Let’s run through the steps involved in the application process:

  1. Get all your documents together and check the remaining validity on your passport.
  2. Go to the China Online Visa Application (COVA) website to fill in all of the required forms
  3. Go to the Appointment for Visa Application Submission (AVAS) website to make an appointment to submit your application at a Visa Office in the US.
  4. Attend your appointment, taking all completed forms and required documents with you.
  5. If your application is successful, pay your fee when you go to collect your visa.

How long does it take to get a China tourist visa?

The average processing time to get a Chinese visa is just 4 working days.

However, you can pay an extra fee of $25 to get your visa in 3 working days, an option designed for urgent situations.²

China tourist visa fees for 2023

The China tourist visa for US citizens costs $185 USD.⁴

The application fee is also the same for other visa types.

You can also pay an additional $25 for express turnaround, which knocks a day off the average visa processing time.⁴

Safe, convenient and low-cost travel spending in China with the Wise card

While you’re sorting out your visa, it’s also a good idea to think about how you’ll spend while in China.

The Wise card is a great choice to cover your expenses when traveling to China. It’s contactless and works in 150+ countries.

Wise is a money service business, offering a multi-currency account, international money transfer services and a debit card.

Order your Wise card for a one-time fee of $9 and you’ll get:

  • Your dollars automatically converted to Chinese yuan at the mid-market exchange rate whenever you spend. There’s just a small conversion fee, or there’s no charge if you already have the currency in your Wise account.
  • Fee-free foreign ATM withdrawals up to $100 a month (ATM operators may charge their own fee).
  • A Wise account which lets you send money to China for low, transparent fees.

Get a Wise Account today

Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

How to get a 10-year tourist visa to China

If you have family living in China and plan to visit regularly, you might also want to check out the 10-year tourist visa for China. It’s a multiple entry visa, letting you come and go as often as you please - although you can’t stay more than 60 days per visit.⁵

Getting this visa could save you a lot of time and expense, as it means that you don’t need to apply for a new visa for every trip over to China.

To get a 10 year tourist visa for China, you’ll need to apply at the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the US. The process is very similar to that for the standard tourist visa, although you may need to provide more documentation.

Bottom line

And that’s it - everything you need to know about the Chinese tourist visa and how to apply for it.

We’ve covered all the essentials, from how much it costs to how long you can stay. You should be all set to fill in your application form and book your appointment at the visa center.

While you’re prepping for your China adventures, don’t forget to check out the Wise card for convenient, low cost travel spending.

Learn more about Wise

💡And for more information to help you plan your trip, read our guides to money and banks in China, ATMs and the cost of living there.

Sources used for this article:

  1. iVisa - China tourist visa
  2. Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malaysia - Notice on New Adjustments to Chinese Visa and Entry Policies (March 2023)
  3. Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States - Requirements for Chinese Visa Application
  4. Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States - Visa Processing Time & Fees
  5. iVisa - 10 Year China Visa for a US Citizen

Sources checked on 16-Aug-2023.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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