Regarding Chinese L class visas, which are supposedly (post-May 2008, even) still not that difficult to get, at the Sydney embassy.
Some things that your average travel agent and TRAVCOUR visa processing probably either don’t know, or won’t tell you. Unless you’re booking through a China specialist, but hey, more info out there can’t hurt. The few travel agents I’ve spoken to this time around were happy to admit they didn’t understand what was happening, so nothing too bad to report on that front!
- Only tick the bare minimum. If you’re going for sightseeing, just tick that box. If you tick the relatives box you’ll have to prove they exist. You need to prove everything exists. The whole process is an existential nightmare!
- A certain security guard at certain consulate (hint: I haven’t been outside of Sydney since February and have been told in the last month to do this, which certainly narrows it down a bit!) will not let you in without perfect documentation. He’s not Chinese (they use a private security firm at least for public areas), and not very understanding. If you’ve filled in a form before you get there, pretend you haven’t. If you need to go inside and try to talk to someone this is probably the best strategy. Call me naive, but this is preferable to faking documents using a travel agent, which was the course of action he recommended. I kid not. Let it be noted: The other security guard at the embassy is fantastic and nice and helpful… but only speaks English. Must be hellish for Hua Ren (with not-great-English) trying to get in!
- Don’t actually fake your papers if you can avoid it. I was (again, probably naively) shocked at being essentially instructed to lie as a matter of process, and obviously this isn’t a course of action that actually should be recommended by anyone. The process is difficult enough without added complication brought about by fraud!
- If your travel plans are uncertain, don’t worry about documenting other cities too much.
- If you need double-entry, for example because you’re traveling to Hong Kong and back into China, be aware that you will need to document a destination back inside China. Again, the specifics of this don’t matter too much — but you are meant to produce tickets for travel along with your visa application. Specifically speaking of Hong Kong, you can circumvent this requirement by writing in the itinerary field “Destination (by train)” or similar method of transport that is very unlikely to be documented months in advance. You will need proof of accommodation at your first destination, but beyond this it doesn’t seem to much matter.
- If you’re staying with family/friends that may complicate matters. You may or may not need booked accommodation for the duration of your stay… I didn’t test this one out!
- Hong Kong SAR isn’t a problem at all re: accommodation or anything else if you’re an Aussie. So don’t bother with this for your visa application… it’s part of China, sure, but not for the purposes of complicated bureaucracy!
- The actual Chinese staff at the embassy are really nice and really helpful, once you get past the trollish security guard and figure out at least roughly what paperwork you need! If in doubt, figure out a way to get inside and stand in the visa queue and ask them, and they’ll probably be able to help you with whatever question. That’s how I discovered the (by train) itinerary flexibility!
Finally, this is just my experience in one place in Australia, and will probably change. Even in 悉尼 :P