I’m super late to the party when it comes to obtaining a 10-year China visa. Americans have been getting them for some years now, and it became standard practice pretty much after I applied for a visa the last time I went to China, which was in 2015. I don’t travel to China much these years, but that wasn’t the case in the 90s. Looking back at my old visas, I find it kind of cool to see how the China visa has evolved over the years.
My first China visa was issued in 1988, but that passport is long gone. The next time I applied for a China visa was in 1991 and it was pretty normal to be given a single entry. I had three months to use it after it was issued and could stay for a month. I used this visa to visit friends in Nanjing. It was cold.
The next time I applied for a visa, it was summer and I was with my dad. We got our visas in Hong Kong, where we stopped for a few days after a couple weeks in Thailand. Fun fact: I have never traveled to China from anywhere but Hong Kong except for my first trip there (when we were supposed to visit Hong Kong, but didn’t).
My next trips to China occurred between 1995 and 1998. After I got married in 1995, I found this little China Travel Service (CTS) office in Mongkok, a part of Kowloon where few tourists went to apply for China visas back then. Mr. Wang manned the visa desk and recognized me after I applied for my second or third visa from his office. There weren’t many folks from mainland China in Hong Kong then and he seemed alone in the dark CTS office, and must have felt even more so outside the office where people spoke a dialect foreign to those from the north. Sometimes I came close to telling Mr. Wang there was trouble in paradise, as one often feels more comfortable telling these things to strangers than to those closest to us. But I didn’t.
By 1995, I start to apply for visas with two entries. I used the first to take my fiancé to the airport in Shenzhen and the second to meet his parents in Hubei. I don’t see any indication of how long I could stay on this visa.
More visits followed. I was allowed to stay longer with these visas. 180 days vs 30 days from 1991.
In 1996, this double entry visa allowed me to stay for 90 days at a time.
Again, these don’t say how long I could stay.
Although I used these two visits on the double entry visa below in April and May 1997, the visa expired 10 days after the handover.
Even though this single entry visa was issued after the handover, it doesn’t look any different from the pre-handover visas. This is one country, two systems. And the reason I chose single entry vs double entry visas is because the latter cost more and if I knew I wasn’t going to China again until the visa expired, there was no point in paying extra.
Another post-handover visa, this time for two entries.
I can’t remember why I went to China in January 1998. I was pregnant and my then-husband was in China with an expired Hong Kong visa. There’s a chance I met him in Shenzhen for dinner, but it’s a blur now. The second trip, however, in February, is much more vivid. My then-husband came back to Hong Kong on a transit visa and he sent me across the border into Shenzhen with a friend to get his money out of China. I crossed back into Hong Kong with tens of thousands of dollars. He figured the customs officials wouldn’t question a pregnant foreigner. Super scary. We would leave for the US the next day and I wouldn’t return to China for another 17 years.
Today I got a 10 year China visa.