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Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Houston, Texas
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Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Going to many countries in the world you either need a valid passport and Visa or just Passport that doesn't expire for another 3 to 6 months past when you stay.

But let's say you are coming from the United States, and you see a deal to Beijing for half the price it usually is using Air China for example.

What do you do when you know you have to apply for a visa as well and get it back far enough in advance?

For example looking at this site --> friendlyplanet.com/faqs/passports-visas.html

"China

Travelers to China must have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel. U.S. passport holders must obtain a China visa prior to departure. For fast and easy visa processing, we recommend our preferred provider, CITS USA. Friendly Planet travelers to China who obtain their visas thru CITS receive a discounted visa fee of $170 or $185 depending on your state of residence, instead of the regular price of $190 and $205. Once we have received your final payment and a copy of your passport, we will send visa support letter via e-mail 60 days prior to departure to help you obtain your visa. Please do not apply for your visa until you receive the Visa Support Letter. If you hold a passport from another country, please check the requirements. More information is available from the Embassy of China."

Now looking here it seems you have to book your trip many months in the future, probably a good 4-6 months. Many times someone sees a deal and if they got the time off they want to go within 2 months and then they just book the flight.

My main question is, if you get a great deal on a good airline that would usually cost double than it usually does, do you book the flight immediately for the near future or try to get a visa first?

What would you do?

30 replies to this topic
Liverpool, UK
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1. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Personally speaking I'd get the Visa first - booking a last minute flight carries a risk if there are any problems with getting a visa.

You might lose out on a cheaper flight but it comes down to your attitude to risk/reward.

Worthing, United...
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2. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Hi

My son does this a lot as he is a musician who travels to lots of countries, among them China two or three times.

With him it is ticket then visa. It has to be this way so you can tell the embassy when you want the visa for.

Jackie

Worthing, United...
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3. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Just as an addition, he has to do it this way because he has to have the contract and tickets bought for him before he spends a penny on a visa.

Jackie

Dartmouth, Canada
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4. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

I would personally be getting any travel visas before booking flights.

What happens if you book the flight and then, for whatever reason, get denied a visa? Best to make sure you know you're allowed in any country first!

~ martinigoddess

Bangkok
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5. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Hi,

Just taking a quick read of the text you reposted-- I only see a discount of around US$35 max, per person..

that to me, in and of itself isn't "enough" for me to be tied to one agent and/or book that far in advance..

Travel from the US to China ( and I'm referring to the whole country, not just PEK) has a lot of options and more are coming.. Aside from the three is US carriers, AA, DL, and UA, you have all three of the major Chinese carriers, CA, CZ, MU... plus from selected cities some smaller, newer China carriers, like Hainan (HU)...

So... I think you've got some room to play around and look for better fares that are not tied to the use of an agent for you visa..

To your issue of order-- flight first or visa first..

If I recall correctly, single entry "L" China tourist visas are good for 90 days from the date of issue.. So, what *I* would do is this..

Pick your date range that you WILL travel in... Once you have that, send in your application to your applicable PRC diplomatic mission.. WHILE that is going on, now do your flights.. In reality you'll probably end up booking something about 6 to 8 weeks (45 to 60 days) out and that would fit as the visa would be good for 12 weeks (90 days).

But.. if you couldn't or aren't sure of your dates-- then I'd book your tickets first-- making SURE you left more than enough time for your visa to be completed -- time to process can vary widely depending on where and how you apply.

The thing I remember is that between the two- tickets and visa-- the ticket is by far, the more expensive of the two... So, I try to nail that one down first... while being mindful that you still need the visa to use the ticket.

Travel Safe,

Boston...
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6. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Travelled with Friendly Planet many times. I lock in the vacation w. airfare and then worry about getting the Visa. I don't see any reason why I would be turned down for a visa though, so that is why I am not concerned with the order.

That being said, I have never waited for them to send a "visa support letter" to start the process. I would be squeamish to wait til 60 days out if I have booked say 6-12 months in advance. China would be the exception because of the timing of their visa, but I had no trouble obtaining that one either.

Edited: 2:31 pm, October 21, 2013
Poulton Le Fylde...
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7. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Jordansbullss,

I think you may have misinterpreted the advice on Lonely Planet. Many countries require passengers to have a passport with at east 6 months validity on it from the date of entry to the country they are visiting. Airlines, particularly in the US enforce this rule as they would be held responsible if someone enters a country not meeting passport or visa requirements and is refused entry and has to fly home at the airline's expense.

Obtaining a visa and how long it takes to get one depends on each country. You need to look at the requirements for each country you plan on visiting and find out the most efficient and economical way of obtaining one. The time taken to obtain one will determine how late you can leave booking a flight.

Houston, Texas
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8. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

@ Post 5.

Just want to make mention I wasn't concerned about the cost of the visa, just more so about how much the flight would be and how much I would lose out on if a visa is denied. But why would one get a visa denial in the first place?

Bangkok
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9. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

Hi,

re: 8

"But why would one get a visa denial in the first place?"

==> There can be lots of reasons... IMHO, most are due to what I call "documentary" issues.. that is the applicant doesn't have or submit the right paperwork with their application like proof of funds, or hotel booking, or ticket.. whatever that Embassy/Consulate asks for isn't included.

These are usually the easiest to fix.. just turn in (or reapply as the case may be) with the right paperwork..

The second reason I'd call "Consular Review"... In some cases an applicant may be applying for a certain type of visa --which has conditions, restrictions -- and based on the Consular Officers review of the application and applicant, the applicant doesn't appear to meet those conditions or the Consular Officer isn't convinced of the applicants intentions.

Remember that the granting or not of a visa is in most all cases a wholly a sovereign issue and as a non-national you usually don't have any statutory rights to review, unless that nations law provides for such. Consular officers have immunity from local legal jurisdiction relative to the execution of their consular duties.

As an example, I hold a multi-year Crew visa for China, a "C" class visa.. However, I can only use that when I will enter "on duty" and clear Immigration as a member of the crew.. So, when I go for pleasure, I need an "L" visa..

When I apply for an "L" visa, it's common (I always submit this letter now) to be asked by the Consular Officer to write or sign a letter that says I understand the penalties for misusing an "C" visa in lieu of a "L" visa when on personal travel.

This would be an example where an Consular Officer might review the (my) application ask him/herself, "Does this person intend on coming to China for and under the guise of a tourist?".. and because of my other China visa, want to be sure that I am using the appropriate visa class.

Travel Safe,

Sherbrooke, Canada
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10. Re: Do you book the Flight or get the Visa First?

I don't know about other airlines but in the case of Air Canada, if you visa is refused (you need to prove it) then you can cancel and get a full refund. I know that it is the case for China, possibly to other destinations too.

They do not make this information very obvious. You need to read the fine print to find this out.

While it is pretty rare for a Canadian to have a Chinese visa refused, it is more common for a Chinese to have a Canadian visa denied.

Note also that for the purpose of applying for a visa (like the Chinese visa where you need to show flight bookings) some airlines allow you to cancel within 24 or 48 hours and get a full refund. So you book, print the confirmation then cancel.

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