Do Americans Need a Visa to Visit China?

National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: I’m planning a trip to China and am confused about visas.

My Answer: Any U.S. citizen visiting China needs a visa. In 2014 President Obama announced new policies for Chinese students and long-term visitors, and China reciprocated with a multiple-entry visa for U.S. travelers that’s valid for ten years.

Visa applicants must visit the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., or one of the five consulates in the U.S. If you can’t go in person, hire a company such as VisaRite Service to apply on your behalf and help navigate the varying requirements. Set aside at least two weeks for the process.

Christopher Elliott is Traveler magazine’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the April 2015 issue). Follow Christopher’s story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

Do you have a burning travel question? Share it with us in the comments section below for a chance to appear in Traveler magazine.

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  1. Ingrid
    May 5, 2015, 11:26 pm

    If you’re in China less than 72 hour, there is also a visa free transit policy. About a dozen of the larger cities have this policy. You just need to show proof of onward travel on arrival.

    The Chinese embassy is also very strict about where you apply. You can’t just apply at any consulate as mentioned above. You have to apply at the one that has jurisdiction over your state.

  2. Donna
    United States
    May 5, 2015, 4:27 pm

    I have clients who will be visiting Mongolia. They are transiting through Beijing in both directions (actually an overnight both ways). I understand that China now offers a 72 hour stay visa, obtainable upon arrival, for citizens arriving from the USA. We have not been able to find if they can use this type of Visa in both directions. On the return they will be arriving from UlanBattaan. I have spoken to several visa expeditors (we use easyvisa) but no body can give an answer. Have tried the embassy and the consulate but again no answer.
    I am getting the sense that my clients should apply for a multiple entry tourist visa.
    Do you have any idea or suggestion?