Can Americans Travel to China? Heres What to Know

I was recently applying for a new passport, dreaming of all the new stamps and visas I’d collect, when I wondered: “Can Americans travel to China?” As it turns out, some recent policy changes out of Beijing have made it easier than ever to marvel at the Great Wall of China, take in the cosmopolitan bustle of Shanghai, and devour spicy Sichuan-style dishes at the source.

As of January 1, 2024, US travelers applying for tourist visas to China are no longer required to present proof of roundtrip tickets for travel, hotel reservations, or specific itineraries. The development came after a declaration in December by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States that states both countries mutually agreed to simplify the visa process in an effort to “facilitate people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States.”

To learn more about how US passport holders can travel to China, I reached out to travel specialists with deep expertise in tourism in China and Asia more broadly: Mei Zhang, the founder of WildChina and a member of Condé Nast Traveler’s Global Advisory Board; and Catherine Heald, co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands, a luxury travel advisor specializing in destinations throughout Asia.

Here’s what you need to know about traveling to China with a US passport in 2024.

Can Americans travel to China?

Yes, Americans can travel to China for tourism purposes. The country previously upheld travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from early 2020 to March 2023. At the time, a quarantine period was required of anyone who entered the country; additionally, Zhang of WildChina explains, flights between the United States and China were extremely limited, and so tickets were prohibitively expensive.

Interest in travel to China has increased in recent months, says Heald of Remote Lands, thanks to the new visa application rules that have come into effect in 2024: “Even when the country opened, obtaining a visa was somewhat difficult, so it did not really see an influx of travelers from the US until this year.”

What kind of visa do I need to visit China?

US passport holders need a visa to visit China, obtained in advance of travel, i.e. there is no “visa on arrival” option. Tourist visas valid for ten years and good for multi-entry use must be acquired though a Chinese embassy or consulate, or a visa service. Currently, for US citizens, the cost for a tourist visa for travel to China is $140, whether for single-use or multi-entry use. This is a reduced fee, in effect until December 31, 2024.

According to the Chinese embassy in the United States, the tourist visa application requirements include: a passport with at least six-months’ validity and two blank pages; a photocopy of the passport’s ID page; a completed application form, filled out online and printed; proof of residence, like a driver’s license or a utility bill; and a completed “Where You Stay Form” that attests the applicant is currently applying for a visa from within the US.

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