I recently went through the process of getting a visa for my upcoming trip to China. When we went to Vietnam I needed one as well and all it involved was filling out a form at the embassy in Seoul and coming back the following week to pick up my passport. Easy peasy.
China though? Not so much. If you're a foreigner living in Korea (specifically a US American since that's what I am in case some of this info may not apply to foreigners of other countries) and you want to take a trip to China, the visa process involves just a bit more work. You can no longer apply for a visa directly at the Chinese embassy so you need to find a travel agency to take care of it for you.
And if you're like me and you have an ARC (Alien Registration Card) that is expiring within the six month period from when you are applying for a visa, you will hear that the Chinese embassy in Seoul no longer grants visas in those cases. So you have to get some extra paper work and send your documents down to a travel agency in Busan where the Chinese embassy there will give you a visa. Still with me?
Once all was said and done, the process wasn't that much more difficult but I think I was just so worried that they wouldn't grant me a visa that I worked myself into a tizzy. This post will probably be way too late to help anyone hoping to head out to China for Chuseok but for future reference I thought I'd compile the steps you need to take if you want a visa for China with less than six months left on your ARC.
If your ARC has less than six months on it then you need to get yourself to your local immigration office and pick up a Certificate of Foreign Registration (I have heard you can also get one of these at your city hall or district office but I can't confirm this). Bring your passport, ARC, and a stamp (I bought one at the office) into the immigration office and request this form. It takes less than five minutes and you leave with a sheet of paper that basically just re-states all the information from your ARC and passport but with a fancy stamp on top of it.
If you're in Incheon then the immigration office is located right behind Inha University Hospital. I took a cab and told the driver "Incheon chu-rip-kuk" or "Incheon immigration". I think I also threw in "Sa-mu-shil" or "office" for good measure but kept butchering it and he finally just said in plain English "Office?". Somehow even when I attempt to speak Korean I sound like an idiot...
Find a travel agency to send your stuff to. I highly recommend Kangsan Travel as I had a very positive experience with them. They have an office in Seoul as well as one in Busan. I was super paranoid about mailing off my documents, particularly my passport, and having them get lost or be returned with a fat rejection stamp on top. So I emailed them beforehand just to confirm that they definitely would be able to get me a visa with my soon-to-be expired ARC and they assured me it would be fine.
Fill out your visa application. You can find the applications through Kangsan Travel here. The first PDF is the main application form and the second is an extra form to fill out if you're applying for the visa in a country other than your country of nationality. So basically all foreigners in Korea need to send that one as well.
Gather up your documents. What you'll be sending:
- Copy of your ARC, front and back
- A 3cm x 4cm passport photo
- Application forms
- Certificate of Foreign Registration
If you don't have passport sized photos you can either get them taken in a subway station at one of those little photo booths or at a photography shop. Just look for a shop window full of family portraits, walk in, and tell them what you want. I needed one for Vietnam too so I had plenty of extras.
Mail your documents off! I just brought everything into the post office, told them I wanted to send something express to Busan, and the worker helped me fill out the address in Korean. You can find the address at the page I linked above.
Pay the visa and handling fee. For most foreigners the fee is 70,000 won but for Americans it's 220,000. Gross. On top of that I also paid 30,000 handling to Kangsan. You can pay by wire transfer at your bank which is super easy and safe. The account name and number details can also be found on the applications page linked above. I emailed Kangsan to let them know I'd transferred the money and I also sent them the address to mail my passport back to.
I'd sent my things off on a Tuesday and by the Friday of the following week my passport was back with a brand new visa inside. I've heard various things about the Chinese embassy in Busan possibly changing to the no-visa-for-an-ARC-with-less-than-six-months like Seoul but at least for the time being you can get one if you follow these steps and go through Kangsan Travel. I'm sure there are other agencies you can use as well, I just know I had success with this one.
Trivia of the Day: Caribbean Bay is an indoor / outdoor water park located in Yongin, South Korea. Opened in 1996, it is the largest indoor / outdoor water park in the world. The Caribbean Bay park reproduces a typical bay in the Caribbean Sea. The park includes a wave pool, the world's longest lazy river ride, a sandy pool, a wading pool for young children, various water slides, and a salt sauna. The children pool also has a baby pool which is very shallow for adults but perfect for babies. Caribbean Bay has received "Must-see Waterpark Awards" from International Association of Amusement Park Attractions.