Do you pack a what-if item in your bag? You know, the ones that you put in your suitcase or backpack just in case? I’m one of those. My what-if items are photocopies of my passport, birth certificate, and business registration. I also keep a couple of passport-sized photos. You know, just in case.
My what-if packing finally paid off this week, when I had to apply for a Chinese tourist visa in Melbourne. A scheduled trip to Hong Kong in September was suddenly altered to include a side trip to Guangzhou, in the Guandong Province of China. While I can travel visa-free to Hong Kong, the Chinese government requires me to apply for a visa prior to crossing the border. Applying for a visa should be easy enough, as I already have most of the documents on hand, but with only 12 days in Manila, four of which are weekends, I am cutting it way too close if I’m going to wait to apply until I get home.
The Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Melbourne appointed an agency to receive and release all visa applications. The Chinese Visa Application Service Center is located at 570 St. Kilda Road, accessible via trams 3, 5, 6, 16, 64, and 67.
The standard requirement for the tourist visa are as follows:
Filled out tourist visa application form
One passport sized photo
Employment certificate (if employed)
Copy of flight/train itinerary to China
Copy of accommodation reservation
Since I’m not an Australian citizen, I also had to fill out and submit the Supplementary form, and give out the details of my Australian tourist visa. I was also asked to photocopy my Australia entry stamp, and provide a copy of my flight booking to Hong Kong, since I’ll be taking a train from Hung Hom railway station in Kowloon to Guangzhou.
What I liked about applying there was that they check all the forms and documents you submit, taking out what’s not needed, asking for clarification for certain answers, and telling you which documents you need to submit that you may have missed out. That’s why I was so glad that I had a photocopy of my DTI registration with me, because they asked me for a copy. They also have a copier, so should they require you to photocopy something, you can easily do it there for $0.20.
The downside of applying for the visa in Australia though, is that it costs much more than it does in the Philippines. Whereas the regular processing in Manila costs Php 1,400, in Australia it’s $50 (approximately Php 2,000). On top of that, the agency charges a $38.50 service fee, which brings your total to $88.50.
However, with the convenience of applying it here makes the additional costs worth it (a bit). The requirement for a Chinese tourist visa application in the Philippines also require you to present a bank certificate and statement showing that you have a Php 100,000 average daily balance in your bank for the past six months. Requesting this from my bank would eat up at least two days, leaving me with just 4-5 days to submit my visa and wait for the release. That leaves me with no wiggle room if ever there’s a problem with my application.
If I applied directly in Manila, I’d have to go to the embassy early in the morning, as applications are only accepted until 11am. I’ve read accounts from bloggers that they arrived at the embassy at 8:30am (the office opens at 9:00), and people were already lined up. Her queue number was called at 11am.
When I went to apply for my visa, I arrived at 2pm, and was called to the counter at 2:20pm. When I came to pick up my passport, the wait was only 10 minutes. No rush hour traffic and packed MRT to contend with. That makes the extra fee worth it, in my opinion.