There is a lot of rumours, speculation and overall confusion among the travelers in Ulaanbaatar about what is required for a visa for China.
During China’s week long national holiday, I did quite a bit of research and planning to make sure I could get my Visa on the 10th October.
First things first, get there early. The centre is only open from 9.30am until 12 noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I got there at 7.45am and there were already 30 people there. At the main entry, there was a woman with a clipboard taking names and designating numbers for the people in the queue. Thinking this was legitimate, I put my name down – Number 60! But be warned, this list is bullshit. You need to queue the entire time. It seemed like some people put their names down, thinking it was official, then left for a coffee. Also, some of the locals told us, “there is no stress for foreigners, you will get in”. Don’t believe this either. While they did separate tourists from locals outside and inside, there were many tourists who missed out.
At 9.30, the door is opened and they tell Mongolian line and the tourists to line up single file (separate line for each, Mongolians on the north side and tourists on the south side). After this, yellow tickets are passed out in line order up to 30. I was number 26. These tickets are important. After 12 noon they will only process applications if you have managed to secure a yellow ticket.
Anyway, after going through the first door in the wall, there is another queue to get inside the building. Then finally inside the building, there is another queue to get to the counter.
As of 10th October, here is what is required at the counter for an Australian citizen (and I presume most others).
What you need:
- Passport: Valid passport with minimum 6 months validity. Passport needs to include valid Mongolian visa.
- Passport Photocopy: Yep, even though thy have your passport, they also insist on you providing them a photocopy
- Inbound/Outbound tickets: They want to see proof of entry and proof of exit. Thankfully, any of the Airtrans or Airmarket stores in Ulaanbaatar are willing to provide an unconfirmed reservation for this free of charge.
- Hotel Booking: 3 nights confirmed booking at a hotel in the arrival city. I used booking.com and cancelled after I got the visa. Booking.com sometimes allows cancellation free of charge.
- 4 Page Visa Application: Complete the visa application form thoroughly. This includes a detailed itinerary, but not too detailed. I saw one guy get rejected for simply writing 30 days in Beijing (they want to see proof that the applicant has planned their trip) and another guy get rejected for providing a typed itinerary on a separate piece of paper (they accused him of having a travel agency prepare it for him – he did it himself and was suitably furious). The application asks for work or study details. I am currently unemployed and haven’t been at University for 5 years, so I simply ticked unemployed and left company/university details blank. The application was only accepted after I wrote my university major, my university details and my last occupation in the field.
- Passport photo: Make sure its recent and glued or stapled to your application
- Pen: Bring one. if you don’t need it, someone near you will. It helps to have friends during ts ordeal. A pen makes you a friend.
What you don’t need:
- A letter from your Embassy: We heard tourists need a letter of confirmation from their own embassy. I submitted my letter from the Australian embassy (which I arranged a few days earlier), but some people did not and it was not a problem.
- Proof of funds: I heard people talking about this inside the embassy, saying they had been asked for it. I was not asked and I did not have it and it wasn’t required.
- Invitation letter: This can be used instead of hotel booking & inbound/outbound flights & itinerary MAYBE. If you have hotel booking and flights and itinerary it is not required.
- Supplementary visa form (2 pages): This is still available on a china visa website but apparently not required. I submitted t but most didn’t.
- Photocopy of Mongolian Visa: I didn’t need this, but I heard some people did. Take it just in case.
The staff handling the applications are not helpful at all. They will not tell you what is wrong with your application, so check everything over and if they pass it back, check it ALL again. Don’t give up and don’t leave the embassy in a rage. Just fix it there and try it again.
If you’ve made it this far, and you’ve finally had your application accepted, you will be given a payment slip. This can be paid at Golumt Bank at the south side of the embassy compound (across the road). US Dollars or Tughrik are acceptable. I paid an extra $20 USD fee to pick it up on Wednesday instead of Friday so I could catch the Thursday train to Beijing.
For the visa collection you are required to bring the payment receipt from the bank and also the original receipt from the embassy.
When I went to collect my passport with the visa on Wednesday, I arrived at 3.45pm and was about eighth in line. At 4pm, the door did not open. In fact, they didn’t open until 4.45pm, and only let a few people in at a time. Finally I got in at about 5;15pm, but they were incredibly slow going through the applications. I didn’t get out until 5:45pm. But I did get out……and I am going to China!