How to Get a Chinese Tourist Visa in NYC

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On my first day in NYC, I broke a cardinal rule. NEVER EVER EVER overdo it on the first day in a new city. Even though NYC isn’t new to me (we go back 7 years), I hustled a bit too hard the first day. I power-walked over to the Chinese Consulate (literally on the edge of town), determined to get my visa taken care of first thing. After standing in line for 30 minutes and having an agent look over my carefully prepared documents, I was denied. Why? Here is what I didn’t know. You can only apply for a Chinese visa at the NY consulate if you live in the following states (whoops!):

  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

Since the agent was taking his sweet time looking over my papers, I was so sure it was going to be a breeze. When he finally looked up at me, he had a grim look on his face as if he was about to tell me I had cancer, but instead, out came the words “You’re from Michigan so you have to go to the Chicago consulate.” In my own head, I was kicking myself for not researching that in more detail before I left, and I spent the rest of day seeking out other options.

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For those of you who live in the States mentioned above, here’s how YOU can get your Chinese visa.

Consulate Office: 520 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-868-2078
Hours: 9am-12pm, 1:00pm-2:30pm, closed on the weekends

How to Get There

Take the A,C,E train to 42nd street and walk over to 12th Avenue. It’s right on the water, and you’ll know which building it is by the sheer volume of Chinese people hanging around the exterior.

What You Need

  • Visa application
  • Passport
  • Copy of the first 2 pages in your passport
  • Passport-sized photo – MUST be recent photo (within last 6 months)
  • Round trip itinerary
  • Hotel reservations
  • Money

*Hotel reservation confirmations and round trip itinerary must have your name on it somewhere.

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Inside the Beijing subway

What to Expect

When you arrive, you have to go through security, and NO CAMERAS OR MOBILE PHONES ARE ALLOWED. You’ll have to forfeit them to security for the time being. No worries. They’ll give you a number, and you’ll simply retrieve your belongings on your way out. After standing in line, when you finally get to talk to an agent, hand them all your papers, and be prepared to answer some questions regarding where you live, your job, reason for visiting China, etc. *Tip* don’t tell them you work in media or journalism. It will raise some red flags, invite some unwanted questions, and possibly delay your visa. I don’t advocate for lying, but in this case, a small twist to the truth will speed up the process.

Regular visa processing takes 4 to 5 business days and expedited takes 2-3 business days for an extra fee. You will pay when you come pick it up, and I recommend doing so in the early morning to avoid the crowds.

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The Great Wall of China

An Alternative Option

As for the rest of you who might find yourself in a bind like I did, here is an alternative option. Take all the paperwork mentioned above, and drop it off at the VisaHQ office (501 5th Avenue, Suite 1111). If you’re on a tight deadline, establish that you need it back on the day before you actually need it. I used VisaHQ to get my visas for Russia and Turkey as well, and they haven’t failed me yet. FYI, because they are a 3rd party agency, there will be a fee tacked on to the final cost.

So, lesson re-learned, RESEARCH. I guess I should take my own advice, eh? Got my passport back with visa intact, just in time to fly off to Ireland. Many thanks to the folks at VisaHQ for helping me in a jiff.

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