Chinese Visa Application
You could be applying for a visa either in your own country, within China or in a third country. If you have any doubts about your situation, you should enquire at the Chinese Consulate that issues visas, such as China Embassy in Toronto, Canada, or at Public Security Bureau Entry and Exit Administration office in China.
Please be advised that Chinese Consulate does not accept any postal or couriered applications from individuals and mail-in visa application due to increased security measures. If you choose to handle the visa application yourself, you must physically present your application and documents to the China Consulate, or, entrust someone to handle the application on your behalf. It takes four to five business days for the consulate to process a visa application; Rush fee applies if you require an express service.
China Visa Application in Your Own Country
Ideally, complete an application form supplied by the office where you are applying as there may be variations from place to place. Complete as much of the form as possible though some questions might not be relevant to your situation. One problem for many travelers is answering the question on where they will be staying. You should simply list some cities you might visit. For tourist visas, many nationalities will not need to provide contact information, but if you have any then certainly enter them. If you are seeking dual or multiple entries, please indicate the countries or SARs (HK, Macau) you plan to visit to show why you need multiple entries.
Naturally, you should answer questions honestly and risk failing in your application, not being admitted on arrival at the border, or being expelled after entry. One hot topic is what happens if you declare that you have a criminal record. You will not be automatically denied a visa, but if you have committed a serious crime then you may have a problem. In some countries persons may receive fixed penalty fines, perhaps for littering, or have a 'no conviction recorded' and bound over not to re-offend, or had restraining orders placed on them: these are not of concern and need not be stated on the application. Other minor offences such as are called 'summary' in Britain or 'misdemeanour' in the USA should be stated to comply with Chinese law, but it is known that many applicants do not declare them.
If you want a long visa or dual or multiple entry, indicate it on you application. It will not always be granted. However, do not limit your application based on what may have happened to others. US citizens (only) might as well seek the maximum length visa with multiple entries as the fee is the same.
The normal processing time is four working days including the day you submitted the application and the day you collect. Remember there might be additional non working days for Chinese public holidays. By paying an additional fee you can usually have your visa processed faster. It is normally possible to have your application processed overnight, for collection the following afternoon, though some offices might offer a same day service if you arrive in the office soon after opening. In general try to apply for the visa well in advance to allow for any delays. Visas granted outside China normally allow first entry at least three months after the date of issue.