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Why do I need to attend in person?
Some destination countries will allow you to apply online and receive a digital copy of a visa, some accept passports being posted to them via secure mail to apply the visa, whereas others such as China and Russia insist the applicant attend in person.
This is to allow the Chinese authorities to capture biometric data from the applicant. This is the final step you must complete before your Visa application can be considered. Biometric data takes the form of capturing your fingerprints and storing them on a government system to monitor visitors to the country.
What happens before I visit the Visa Centre?
Before you can attend the Visa Centre, you must make an application online and provide certain documentation via digital upload. There are strict guidelines on the documentation and photos and how they must be formatted, so make sure you get this correct to avoid any delays.
At the end of your application process, you will be able to book your appointment. The waiting times for an appointment can vary, and the timescales can increase significantly at peak times or if there are national events scheduled in China.
What to Expect When Attending the Visa Centre
There are a certain amount of appointments allocated in each 30-minute time slot. You must arrive on time and you will be allocated a number when your appointment print-out has been validated by an employee. Numbers are given out on a first come, first served basis. You will present hard copies of your application documents as well as your valid passport, which will be scanned by a staff member.
When it is your turn, your photo will be taken and this will be added to your application. A member of staff will then review your application, making sure all of the documentation is in order. If you have provided everything required, you will then be asked to provide your fingerprints.
This is done on a digital scanner and saved directly to the centre’s database. Once everything is completed, you can pay the visa fee at the payment desk. You will need to sign this before you hand it to the clerk, who will then hand you a receipt and a collection slip for your visa. It’s extremely important that you keep this slip safe, as you will not be able to collect your completed visa, and therefore your passport, without this.
Some applicants may be selected for interview at the point of attendance at the Visa Centre. This will not be completed at this time, but a further interview appointment will be scheduled for you to attend the Chinese Embassy in London. This is rare and it is more likely to occur if you are applying for a business visa.
Remember that this stage is part of your application. If your documents aren’t correct when you attend, you may be advised of any errors that may cause a rejection and advised to re-book an appointment at a later date so it is extremely important that you have checked all requirements for your visa type thoroughly.
Your visa may also be rejected once you leave the centre, as it is not the centre themselves which grant the visa. This is passed on to the Chinese Embassy for review.
Can someone else apply for the visa on my behalf?
You can authorise an agent, friend or family to collect your completed visa for you. They however can not attend the visa centre on your behalf, unless you are under 14 years old, or over 70 years old. If someone other than you is collecting the visa, they will require the original receipt which was issued to you. A copy, scan or photo of the receipt is not acceptable.
All Visa Centres offer an urgent collection service, which are based in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast. You can opt to have the completed visa returned to you via post, but you will need to leave a self addressed pre-paid envelope at the time of submission. You will also need to of course factor in this additional postage time if you are in urgent need of the visa.