China: New policies for tourist visas

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Planning to travel to China this summer? The government has enacted new visa rules in order to keep better tabs on the more than 1.5 million visitors expected for the Olympic Games in August.

While the new regulations are having more of an impact on foreigners living and working in China, tourists are also being required to jump through a few extra hoops. According to the Chinese consulate in New York, people applying for a 30-day tourist (L) visa must now provide proof that they have purchased round-trip airplane tickets and have made reservations at hotels for their entire stay.

Here are the required documents for tourist visas:

—A completed visa application form, which can be downloaded at or

—A passport with plenty of extra pages, valid for at least six months.

—One recent passport photo.

—Copies of hotel bookings from the day you arrive to the day you leave.

—Copies of your round-trip airplane tickets.

There are other changes to be aware of. China has suspended multiple-entry visas until October, meaning you cannot leave China (to take a side-trip to Thailand, for example) and return to China on the same visa.

Also, the government is requiring tourists interested in going to Tibet to fill out a form issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau—when you call the Chinese consulate in New York, a recording instructs you to call the tourism bureau directly at 011-86/891-683-4313. I don't think this form will be easy to get—China has really tightened access to Tibet following the riots there this spring, mainly to keep out foreign journalists.

Lastly, you cannot submit a visa application to the Chinese embassy or any consulate in the U.S. by mail—you have to either take it to the office personally, or have a friend or travel agent do it. Visa prices have also gone up to $130 for individual applicants, and $110 per person for people applying as part of a tour group.

A good source for up-to-the-minute information on visa regulations is the English-language China travel website


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