|A long way but worth it!|
I was delighted to get the opportunity to visit Shanghai last month as part of my Outward Mobility Academic Fellowship. The trip was packed with activities however my application for a Visa was less than efficient. The amount of information out there was surprisingly limited and/or vague, so I hope you find the following of use.
I am assuming you are getting a business visa - they are required if your trip is being paid for by your organisation. If you are earning money, staying longer than 90 days or doing something extraordinary (such as a specialist lecture) you will have to get either a specialist or working visa. These are much harder to get and require significantly more time, money and patience.
Step 1: PreparationYou must have the following before you can apply for a business visa you require:
- Dates of travel - make sure you know the date/time you leave China in Chinese time, not home country time (else you might be applying for a Visa that is a day too short).
- Proof of flight purchase - a receipt/invoice will suffice. It must have your name and flight number on there.
- Proof of accommodation - you must provide dates, address and names of all the places you are staying (not just the first night as one would in a tourist visa to the USA, for example).
|CBBC: Providers of The 'Letter'|
Step 2: The 'Letter'
You are required to have an invitation letter from your sponsor organisation in China. Rather than ask your host University/Company to provide one, I strongly recommend you contact a company that does this professionally to avoid incorrect letters that either miss information (requiring you to ask for another letter or, even worse, a visa) or too much information (and you have to change your visa type).
I can recommend China-Britain Business Council - if your organisation has a connection to them. Their website and main switchboard are not particularly helpful, however once you get the right department, they are excellent. The department is the Visa Invitation Service and the person is Tracy Baird - she is very helpful.
Make sure you:
- ask for the China Office address as you will require this when completing your visa later on.
- get them to send you a scan of their letter in case it gets lost in the post. A scan is sufficient for most visa services.
|CIBT: The Visa Agency|
Step 3: The Visa Itself
A business visa requires you to attend a visa office in either London, Edinburgh, etc....or you can pay someone else to do it. CIBT offer various services at various prices. They are incredibly efficient, provided you make their life as easy as possible and give them at least the following required information:
- The invitation letter (you can email them a scan of it if you are trying to save time).
- Photo - they accept jpegs using their upload service which is really smart however I do not think you can beat visiting a booth!
- A completed 4-page visa document. This is something everyone has to do regardless of which agency you use. Make sure you use black pen in block capitals. There are websites that will fill this for you after you answer certain questions, I think this is probably a little overkill. Just get your pen out.
Have a great time!