Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

3 Dec 2013

Second Chinese visa extension for 30 day L tourist visa – almost impossible

Posted by Will

In October 2013, I tried and failed to obtain a second visa extension for my 30 day L tourist visa. I went to three different aliens exit and entry (PSB) offices: Chengdu (big city), Xichang (small city) and Kunming (big city). I am a British citizen although from what every office told me it doesn’t matter what nationality you are.

p1060729-800Below is some general information about visa extensions in China and more specifically, the information I could gather about second visa extensions after lengthy discussions with the offices.

Quick-start information:

- PSB offices (visa exit and entry offices for extension) are found in prefecture-level cities. Every province (Yunnan, Sichuan etc…) is made up of lots of prefectures, each of which has a capital city. Those are the cities you can extend your visa. In other words, there are hundreds of potential cities to extend your visa, no just the big ones.

- PSB staff usually speak good English. They certainly do in big cities.

- Different PSB offices have different processing times for visa extensions (1-7 working days). Small cities are usually faster. All PSB offices close and stop processing on public holidays. Check out the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum ‘Chinese visa extension thread’ for up-to-date information.

- Visa extension cost: 160RMB (approx $25) unless you’re from an unfortunate country China’s decided to persecute.

- For all visa extensions take: a passport photo, passport, passport photocopy, visa photocopy, money AND importantly, a hotel registration slip saying you are authorized to stay in the area in which you are applying ON THE NIGHT of the day you apply.

- Hotel registration slip: All hotels should offer this service and youth hostels, especially Hostelllng International ones, usually do. Check this with your accommodation before you check in. The slip should be stamped. Alternatively, you can visit the local police station to register although word on the street says this takes rather a lot of time, patience and awkward police questions (‘where are you actually staying?’).

- Take a pen. They’re rarely provided and you’ll have to fill in a form.

Second visa extensions:

A first visa extension is a formality in China. There’s nothing to worry except a bit of waiting around. The second visa extension is another story. From the many hours I’ve spent talking to officials and reading information on the internet here is my conclusion:

p1060635-800Since July 2013, a tourist L-visa can only be extended once and be extended by no more than the number of days allowed on the original visa. That means if you have a 30 day tourist L-visa you can only extend once and only for 30 days. If you have a 60 day tourist L-visa you can only extend once and only for 60 days.

A few officials seemed hazy about the 60 day visa and suggested that it could be possible to extend that twice for 30 days each time (so long as no more than 60 days of extension were given overall). But I wouldn’t bank on it – you’ll have to see and argue when you arrive.

I told the offices that my situation was an emergency since I was waiting for a new, delayed passport and needed to stay in the country to pick it up. They were all sympathetic but unwavering. I asked them what happens to people with serious emergencies: falling ill or having their documents stolen. To this, Chengdu and Xichang told me that the Chinese visa policy has no emergency extension allowance – rules are the rules.

However, the Kunming office suggested that if I had arrived to them on the final day of my first visa extension and could present a proper case that I wasn’t able to leave the country that day then they could give me up to 10 days on a second visa extension. That sounds encouraging. I had turned up 4 days before my visa was going to expire and so they wouldn’t give me those 10 extra days. I cheekily told them I might turn up in their office again on the last day to get the extension but the manager, who seemed to take a dim view this idea, said he’d recognize me if I came back!

Therefore, a risky option, but I think an option nonetheless for those needing a bit of extra time after their first visa extension, could apply in Kunming on the final day of their first visa extension. Any kind of evidence that train/bus tickets to the border are sold out etc… would help your case.

Other useful points:

- Word on the street is that Langzhou does currently offer second visa extensions at their PSB. Who knows when they’ll stop this though.

- The fine for overstaying a visa in China is 500RMB ($80)/day and could have you barred from the country for a time.

- I always entered discussions with the PSB without telling them I was travelling by bicycle. As the conversation became more desperate though, I let the information slip. In all offices the fact I was riding a bicycle and therefore might need some extra time DID NOTHING to help my case. I was told that riding a bicycle is my own choice and not the fault of the Chinese visa policy.

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