Singapore for beginners
The country in a nutshell
How to get a Chinese or Indian visa in Singapore
First the bad news: in order to apply for an Indian visa in Singapore, you must be a Singaporean citizen, permanent resident, or have a valid long-term pass (an employment pass, dependent pass, etc) (though if you are Singaporean, you can get a visa on arrival). Strictly speaking, you must also be Singaporean to apply for a Chinese visa, but more flexibility is shown on this front.
The Indian and Chinese embassies in Singapore are so swamped with more important matters that they have completely outsourced visa services. If you want a visa to either of these countries you will have to deal with an embassy-approved travel agency. There is no way around this and the High Commission of India won’t even entertain questions about visas over the phone.
Now the good news, kind of: because of this outsourcing, much of the bureaucracy has been eliminated – the travel agencies issue visas quickly and efficiently. The price though has gone up, since you now need to pay the visa fee plus a processing fee to the agency.
If you fall into the group eligible to apply for an Indian visa, you can apply for one at any of the five travel agencies authorised to mete them out. If you are a traveller or tourist, you'll have to try Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
Note that if you are a citizen of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Burma or Indonesia you are eligible for a visa on arrival. When I went to India I applied for my tourist visa through Mustafa Centre and was happy with their service. Full details about the application process, fees, and forms can be found on their website.
Visas to China are handled through the Chinese Visa Service Application Centre. Though they also have a disclaimer that non-Singaporeans should apply for a visa in their home country, they are flexible about this. When I called to inquire further the response was that it was at their discretion and would be given in special cases (i.e. an urgent or unexpected trip to China).
To apply for a tourist visa (L-visa) to China you need:
– A completed visa application form (download it here) with a recent passport-sized photo;
– A copy of your round-trip flight itinerary and hotel bookings;
– A passport with at least two blank pages and six months validity; and
– Visa fee payable in cash
For most nationalities a single-entry tourist visa costs S$75 (S$50 visa fee + S$25 service fee). If you’re a citizen of the United States it costs S$200! This visa is valid for three months from the date it is issued and can be used to stay in China for a maximum of 30 days.
Visa applications can be made from 09:00 to 15:00 on weekdays. You can avoid the queue by making an online appointment. The usual processing time is four days and visas can be collected from 09:00 to 16:00. Express three-day service costs an additional S$45 or urgent two-day service an additional S$70.
The Chinese Visa Application Service Centre in Singapore
#09-00 Royal Brothers Building, 22 Malacca Street
Nearest MRT station: Raffles Place
T: 6226 2358 / 6226 2439
Opening hours: 09:00-16:00 Monday to Friday (closed public holidays)