If you are traveling independently (without an official tour group) to China, you may need to get an invitation letter when applying for a Chinese Tourist Visa or "L" type visa. The letter is a document inviting the person applying for the visa to visit China. There is specific information required by the letter. It is a little bit trickier for the independent traveler than those traveling with a group or for business. Tour agencies supply the letters for their travelers and business travelers can obtain invitation letters from one of the companies they are visiting.
Tour groups are often issued a combined visa for those on their tour to China.
The China Tourist visa (L Visa) is issued to those who intend to go to China for touring, sightseeing, or visiting friends. It is usually issued for up to a 60-day stay per visit. Visas can be obtained for a single entry or multiple entries and the cost is $140.
If you are visiting someone, or know someone, in China, this person can write you an invitation letter. (Information the China visa invitation letter should include) The letter will need to include dates of travel and intended time of stay. It should be noted that you can change your plans after getting your visa. The letter is a statement of intent, but Chinese officials will not check back on the information after the visa is issued. So, even if you are just in the planning stages, you can have your friend write you an invitation letter stating you will be staying with him or her and then you can change your mind after the visa is issued.
If you are backpacking or traveling on your own and don’t have anyone to write you a letter, you can use an agency to help you get a letter. One agency that is recommended is Panda Visa (this agency can also process the China visa for you).
If you are not using an agency to obtain your visa, the visa application will be submitted to the Chinese Embassy/ Consulate General based on your State of residence (look up a Visa Office that serves your state). You can submit your application in person, or use an agent (Power of Attorney not necessary). The Chinese embassy does not accept mailed-in applications. You may be required to come to the Visa Office in person to have an interview as deemed necessary by a consular officer.
It normally takes 4 working days for processing the China travel visa. For express service, an additional fee of $20 is charged for two or three working days service. For rush service, an additional fee of $30 is charged for same-day service which is only approved for extreme emergencies. Acceptable methods of payment are credit card (Visa or MasterCard only), money order, cashier's check, or company check. The Chinese consulate is firm that cash, personal check or online payment is not accepted.
No credit card other than a Visa or MasterCard is accepted.