UPDATE: As of January 2011, the following was not my experience at all. My last visa took me a total of 15 minutes at the consulate in San Francisco.
Today, after waiting 3.5 hours in line at the San Francisco Chinese Consulate, I thought for sure I’d get my brother a VISA for our upcoming trip.
I brought his passport, a photo, a copy of his flight reservation, and the VISA application.Apparently, China tightened down on the rules. That’s an understatement.
I was told (in Chinese, btw) that I needed his birth certificate, the hotel he is staying at, and a written letter explaining his relationship to every that he will encounter in China. Allow me to focus on one part of that. We own two houses in China, so when I told them that there is no need for a hotel, she said, “Lemme see your house deed.”
ME: “Can I fax it?”
ME: “Can I call a hotel now and make a reser–”
HER: “No. Step aside, too many people!”
So. Just thought I’d write a little “what to expect” at the Consulate. Not to mention that this is my seventh time going to China, and all other times I barely filled out the form with no questions asked. Oh, and the fee for a VISA is now $160 USD (used to be $40 a few years ago.)
In short — everything on the VISA form will be scrutinized, so make sure it is all accurate and bring more information than you think you need.