Living in Hong Kong is an incredible opportunity for us. We are experiencing a new continent, a new city and culture, a new way of living, and new opportunities and growth in our careers. That being said, we don’t want to lose sight of the opportunity we have living here to experience adventures beyond Hong Kong too. We are both very keen to visit China. Maybe this is confusing, because on one hand we are technically LIVING in China. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China and is quite separate from Mainland China. Ask any local, though, and they will tell you the difference between Hong Kong and The Mainland (aka mainland China) and the cultural nuances that differentiate the two. Being so close to Mainland China we absolutely want to visit (a big one on my list is to see The Great Wall of China!) and to do so a Visa is required.
In doing a bit of research for this blog post I discovered a very comprehensive website here. It has information about obtaining a China Visa from anywhere in the world – great resource! In our case, we wanted to be prepared for future travel (it’s easy to go for a spur-the-moment trip on the weekend) so we both applied for China Visas on a standard timeline (expediting is possible if it’s required faster due to urgent circumstances). As residents of Hong Kong and Canadian citizens it was very straightforward. Braden had already applied for and received his Visa before me and told me a bit about it, so I didn’t do a lot of research before going (but definitely should have checked out these guidelines before I went).
Lucky for me, the Visa office is very close to where I work, so I was able to pop out of my office mid morning to avoid the peak rush. Every morning I walk by The China Resource Building in Wan Chai (see map here) on my way to work and see hundreds of people lined up waiting for them to open.
Some tips to consider for a visit to apply for a Visa:
- check the hours before your visit (and try to avoid peak rush times, like early morning) – FYI if you have to line up the waiting area is outside but under cover
- if you plan to visit midday, check the time for lunch closures (I believe it’s noon to 2pm)
- depending whether you need to apply for a Visa or pick yours up, there are different lines. Don’t just get in a long line – ask first
- you have to go through a metal detector to get in to the building, and no food or drink is allowed (they take this very seriously…they wouldn’t let a mom in front of me bring a baby bottle in)
- once inside you take an elevator upstairs in to a large processing area and need to take a number
- in order to take a number you must fill the application form out first – bring a pen, HKID and passport (I wish I had filled it out prior to going to the office)
- before you can apply for an annual Visa you must first apply for a multiple entry Visa (cash grab, but what can you do?!). Ask if you’re not sure; the staff is helpful
- you must complete a section about where you will be staying (we didn’t have travel plans so I just googled a random hotel name and address and wrote that)
- once you show your completed form you can take a number, then sit and wait. Screens display who is being served and which counter to go to (pay attention)
- once at the counter someone will review your form, circle anything that’s missing and send you back to fill it out. Once the omissions are addressed or mistakes are fixed you go back to the window you’ve already been at (where they’re likely helping someone else) and form a line there to be helped next.
- in addition to the complete form, a photocopy of your HKID, a passport photo, a photocopy of the passport photo page and, in my case, a photocopy of my Work Visa page in my passport is required. You can bring this all with you (I wish I had known about this and come prepared) OR
- photocopier costs 2 HKD per copy
- there’s a photo booth available – photo costs 50 HKD
- if you require change to pay for copies, there is a cashier that can give you change (copy machines only take coins)
- after getting everything organized you drop of your final package (or if you’re organized you won’t have to run around like I did!), and safely store your confirmation slip that will be needed to pick up the Visa
Note: the office will keep your passport and give it back to you with the Visa inside (it’s a sticker that fills and entire page) when you come back (typically three days later). When Braden applied the application took longer than he expected and he was in a rush to get back to his office. He hurried away and the next day he texted me in a panic saying he couldn’t find his passport. He looked everywhere with no luck, and raced to the Visa place to see if he’d left it there. When he arrived they told him it’s part of the process for them to keep it. He had been so distracted he didn’t even realize. I thought it was bizarre that he didn’t notice but when I applied myself I could totally understand. I was so busy handing over papers, reviewing things, and having things handed back (they give you back your HKID), I didn’t even notice until I walked away myself that they still had my passport. They don’t say anything about keeping it either. Obviously you can’t travel anywhere requiring a passport during the process, so plan accordingly.
When you pick up the Visa, you go to the same floor in the same building (same metal detector process) and there are designated windows to pick up so no number is required. You pay for your Visa when you pick up (I don’t know whether they take credit cards – I paid cash). I went mid-morning again and it was super quick.
Stay tuned for a future adventure in China, most likely to Shenzhen!