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Returning to China – My Entire Visa Process

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It’s been a long couple of months waiting to return back to China. Now, I’ve finally made it safely back. I know you’re probably wondering how did I do it. In this article, I’ll explain the steps that I took, what to avoid, and any recommendations to ensure the process goes smoothly without a hitch.  But, first join the Facebook group called Foreigners Stuck Outside of China for daily updates and a great support group as there are many of us trying to safely return to the country we call home.  Without this group, I would have been lost or confused in understanding the procedure.

Before I explain the steps I’d like to explain how I ended up being stuck outside of China: the place that I’ve called home for the last 2 years.  So due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 globally, the Chinese government decided to suspend the entry of foreigners who hold Visas and Resident permits effective from March 28th 2020. In order to obtain a visa now, you must apply for a PU letter.

Step 1: Apply for a PU letter

What is a PU letter? A PU letter is an invitation letter issued by the Foreign Affairs office or also known as the Commission of Commerce.  This letter is very important because it allows you to then apply for a Work Visa. My new job applied for a PU letter on July 16th and it took about 2 to 3 weeks to receive it.

Step 2: Begin looking at airline tickets online

The reason why I began to look at airline tickets right after receiving the PU letter was because I heard that tickets were super high in price, like $5,000 dollars. Also, there were very few flights traveling internationally back to China. As you can see when you search online there are many flights that show that they fly to China but in reality they don’t so you must be very careful when you book. The best advice I can give you is to try to book with a Chinese airline as there is a higher chance that the flight will not be cancelled. I booked two flights and unfortunately both flights were cancelled and therefore I finally booked a flight via Air China for £1700 which allowed me to come back in time. The other issue with booking flights that will most likely be canceled is that it takes months to receive a refund, so please keep that in mind.  I booked my flight in advance so that I had enough time to follow the other important steps to help me to get back to China.

Step 3:

I applied for the visa application online. I applied for the F Visa which is a non-commercial visa. You’ll need the following documents in order to process the application:

– a recent colored passport photo with a white background
– a passport that is valid for at least 6 months with blank pages available
– print out the completed online visa application form.
– my new school provided an invitation letter to explain the purpose of the visit

Once I submitted these documents, I was then allowed to choose an appointment for when I can visit the Visa facility in London. I attended the Visa appointment at 12pm on August 20th and was there for about 3 or 4 hours so please make sure you have enough time as it can get super busy.  They took all of the documents including my passport and told me to come back in 7 days. I paid £151 for a single entry visa. It was pretty straightforward as long as you have all of the proper documents that are required. Also, make sure you attend your visa appointment at least 30 minutes earlier as the lines can get long. On August 27th, I went to the Visa office and received my Visa.

Step 4:

I immediately made an appointment online through the NHS British website to arrange for my nucleic acid test to ensure that I do not have COVID-19 and I’m safe to travel. I attended the testing location at 10:30 a.m and it took less than 10 minutes. It was not as scary as I imagined it to be and the people were very helpful and patient with the process. I was able to do the self test with the instructions from the person who worked there. I had to do the nasal and the oral test, then insert in a bag and drop in a box. It took less than 24 hours, so by Saturday morning I had received the results by 9:30 a.m.

Step 5:

Then I forwarded the nucleic acid test results from the email, a copy of my photo page in my passport, and the Health Declaration Form filled out to the Chinese Embassy via email for authorization and it was sent back within 5 hours.

Finally, I was all ready for my trip back to the country I call home, China!

For the next steps, read my articles on the flight from England to China. and my 14 day quarantine in China.

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