A Ten-Year Visa

This afternoon the good folks at FEDEX delivered a small package to my house, and it wasn’t even a Christmas present. In fact, it was something better — my passport, with a brand-spanking-new Ten-year, multiple entry tourist visa to China.

I first got wind of this new visa from a report in the Wall Street Journal back on November 11, 2014. It came during President Obama’s trip to China:

President Barack Obama unveiled the new visa arrangements in a speech to business executives in Beijing. According to both governments, the length of tourist and business visas would be extended for each country’s citizens to 10 years from the current one-year limit. Student visas would be extended from one year to five years.

I must admit that my first reaction was skepticism; it just sounded too good to be true. But since I have a trip to China planned for the end of January, and the visa in my passport was set to expire the day BEFORE my departure, I figured I was going to find out.

In the three decades that I lived in China, I saw numerous iterations of visa requirements. When I first went as a teacher in 1984, we only got work visas for one semester at a time. I guess the thought of having a foreigner in the country for a year at a time was just too overwhelming. And, for extra fun (and red tape) we had to get exit visas in order to leave the country. The government gave us permission to be there, but they also granted (hopefully) permission to leave. This was especially harrowing if there was a family or medical emergency that required a swift departure from the country. I can remember more than one late night call to the local police asking for permission for a colleague or a teammate to leave the country. These ended sometime in the 1990′s.

Tourist visas have never had a validity of more than one year, and only in the past 5 or 6 years have multiple-entry visas become standard issue.

And now, suddenly, it’s ten years!

As I do my happy dance, I am also chuckling at the turn of events – I lived in China for nearly 3 decades on 1 year visas. Now that I no longer live in China, I have a 10 year visa!

Now, some of you may be thinking, “hey, how do I get one of those?”

Well, the easy answer is….just apply. It seems that the 10 year tourist visa is now the standard issue visa.

One thing I discovered in the process is that even though US residents are instructed to apply at the Chinese consulate that serves their region, the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC can issue visas to applicants from anywhere.

I used the Washington-based passport/visa service called Allied Passport, and I’d definitely recommend them. I called in advance to ask if these visas were real and they told me they were. I sent my passport off, and had it back within a week.

Here is the Q&A about this visa on their site:

Do I qualify for a China 10 year visa?
Answer: You must hold a USA passport and apply as a tourist or business person. Your passport must not expire within 12 months and you must have at least two blank visa pages. If you do receive a 10 year visa it will allow for you to stay in China for up to 60 days per visit.

There isn’t a 10 year visa option on the application form, how should I apply?
Answer: In section 2.2, please mark “other”. The Chinese Visa Office in Washington issues validity at their discretion. Obtaining a ten year visa is likely, but is not guaranteed. If you qualify for this visa they will automatically issue you a ten year visa no matter which box you check.

I want a 10 year China visa but don’t have a trip planned. I see an itinerary is required, what is this about?
Answer: The Chinese Embassy still requires a flight itinerary with your application. However, the itinerary does not have to be a confirmed or purchased ticket. What you can do is go online and hold a flight reservation, or simply go on a booking website such as Expedia or an airline’s website and make a tenative flight itinerary. The printout must include:

A) The applicant’s first and last name.
B) Specific dates and the Chinese cities you’ll be flying in and out of.

As of now the dates of your itinerary must be within 90 days of your initial depa[r]ture and you cannot be in China for for than 60 days at a time.

In my case, I was able to submit an airline ticket and a hotel reservation. The company told me that it was better to have a hotel reservation as opposed to a letter of invitation from a friend. Their rationale was that an invitation letter to visit a friend might incline them to issue a different kind of visa. I just made a hotel booking through Booking.com (one that can be cancelled, of course).

Be sure to check TOURISM in Section 2.1, even if you are going to visit someone.

Finally, what if your passport expires within the then years of the visa validity? Here is the note that was stapled into my passport:

In other words, the visa does not expire with the passport!

Photo Credits: Joann Pittman