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How To Get a Chinese Visa in New York City

Chinese Visa

A few days ago, I went through the hoops to get my Chinese visa for a trip I will be taking to Shenyang in a few weeks. Unfortunately for me, I had to have the visa back the same day, both because I’m leaving for Manchester, UK in a few hours AND because I didn’t want to take the Path and the Subway across town again to pick it up. So I had to do it myself and I had to have it expedited.

First of all, you cannot, under any circumstances, apply for your Chinese visa through the New York Consular office by mail. If you don’t live in the city (or close enough to make a day trip), you’ll have to use a processing service. Google “Chinese Visa” and you’ll get a number of options for processing companies. I have not used any of these, so I can’t provide a recommendation of which provides the best service. BootsnAll, the parent company of Business Travel Logue, does offer visa processing services, so they would be my first choice.

The Consular office is easy to find, although they seem to want to make it more difficult than it should be. I took the C train from Penn Station to 42nd Street (the Port Authority Bus Terminal). Just get to that stop and you’re practically there. Make a left out of the bus terminal/subway station on 42nd Street and follow it to the end (the numbers of the cross streets should be going up). That will be 12th Avenue and the office is on your right. They don’t seem to want to advertise with big signs or anything, but you can tell by the Chinese people praying and protesting outside the building. You enter on the 42nd Street side of the building. You will have to go through security, so leave your shank at home.

Before you go, print out the visa application form online. It may be a little weird trying to print the Chinese characters, but it should work. The form is pretty straight forward and a concise 2 pages in length. You’ll need one passport photo. I previously wrote a post with information on where to obtain passport photos. Keep in mind, the visa is the same price ($100 for U.S. citizens) for one entry as it is for multiple entries over the span of a year. Even if you only plan on one visit, it wouldn’t hurt to get the extended version just in case.

Get there as early as possible in the morning. The lines move slowly, the chairs will all be full and you don’t want to sit there all day. The office opens at 9:00 am. I got there around 10:00 and it was pretty packed. There is a machine near the door with several options available. Select the “Visa Application” option and print out a number. Your number will appear on the sign over the windows. For visas, you will have to use window 2 or 4. Turn in your passport, extra photo and application at this window. They’ll give you a receipt – be sure to hang on to it. You’re finished until it’s time to pick up your passport with the full page visa.

At 2:00 p.m., you can return to pick up your visa (if you pay the $30 expedite fee, like I did). You’ll go to window 9, who will take your receipt and give you ANOTHER number. Then you’ll go to either window 8 or 10 (whichever window the person directs you to) where you will pay for your visa and receive your passport. This part went REALLY quickly for me. I’m not sure if that’s the norm or if I was just lucky. If you’re returning to pick up your visa at a later time, you will still go to window 9.

Before you leave, it’s probably not a bad idea to make sure it is, in fact, YOUR passport and the visa information is correct.

The whole process is really a breeze, but the website makes it sound more complicated than trigonometry. Good luck with your visa and enjoy China!