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Frequently Asked Questions


Visas, Passports, and Document Authentication FAQ

FAQs about passports, China Visas, India Visas, Brazil Visas, Russia Visas, Vietnam Visas, and Document Authentication.


What passport services do you offer?

We offer many passport services. We can help you renew your passport, , apply for a second passport, apply for a new passport, apply for a child's passport, and help you with lost or damaged passport.  

I wear glasses. Can I wear them in my passport photo?

No. As of November 1, 2016, you cannot wear glasses in your passport photo.

What are the processing times for passport services?

We offer four different process times for our passport services: same day service, 24 hour service, 3 business day service, and 6 business day service.  Please contact our office ahead of time if you require same day or 24 hour service. 

Can I fill out passport applications by hand?

As of October, the US Passport Agencies require passport applications to completed online at the State Department's website:  Once completed, print out and sign the form before sending it and the rest of your documents to our office.

I have run out of pages in my passport. What should I do?

The U.S. Department of State no longer allows U.S. passport holders to add pages to their passport.  If you run out of pages, you must renew your passport.  We recommend that applicants select the non-standard 52 page passport book when renewing passports to avoid running out of pages in the future.

What is an authorization letter and why do I need one?

Authorization letters are required by the US Department of State and allow expediting services to work on the applicants behalf.  If there are any problems or issues that need to be resolved, the authorization letter allows us to work on your behalf to resolve the issues.

What is a second passport?

Second passports are intended for frequent travelers.  A second passport allows you to travel with one passport while the other is being processed for visas and other travel documentation.  Second passports are valid for four years.  Please contact our office for more information about applying for a second passport.

What are the most common mistakes made in filling out passport applications?

The most common application mistakes are:

  1. Not including a travel itinerary. In order to process your passport application as quickly as possible, we need a copy of your travel itinerary.  Travel itineraries can be tentative.

  2. Incorrectly filling out the authorization letter.  The authorization letter required by the U.S. Department of State has changed.  The most updated form is available for download at the Passport Services section of our website, or contact us and we can email you a form.  In order for us to help you with your passport services, please check the first two boxes on the authorization letter.  This enables us to submit and pick up your passport from the US Passport Agency and authorizes the Passport Agency to inform us of any problems with the application.

  3. New passports- When applying for a brand new passport, applicants must wait to sign the application until they are in front of an authorized agent.  On page 1 of the completed DS-11 form is a line labeled 'Name of Courier Service'.  Please write 'Urgent Passport Services' on that line.

  4. Handwritten applications - All applications must be filled out online.  This generates a 2D barcode that is necessary to process the visa.  Handwritten applications are no longer accepted by the US Passport Agency.

China Visa

What size photo do I need for my China visa application?

Photos must be 33 mm (width) by 48 mm (height).  They must have been taken within the last 6 months.  Applicants must have a neutral facial expression with eyes open and ears visible.  The background of the photo should be a uniform white color.

What is the processing time for Chinese visas?

The Chinese Consulate offers two processing times: standard processing time is 4 business days and express services is 48 hours.  Please contact our office if you have an emergency situation and need your China visa in less than 48 hours.  We may be able to help you.  

Can I fill out the Chinese visa application by hand?

As of January 1, 2014, the Chinese Consulate no longer accepts handwritten visa applications.  Applications must be completed electronically.  Please see the Chinese visa section of our website for a fillable pdf version of the visa application.

What form do I need to fill out?

Starting October 1, 2013, the Chinese Consulate only accepts the most recent version of the application form, V.2013.  All previous application forms cannot be used.  Previously, non-US passport holders applying for Chinese visas had to complete Supplementary Visa Application Form of the People's Republic of China (Form V.2011B).  The Chinese Consulate no longer accepts this form.  Instead, non-US passport holders should include a photocopy of their green card or work visa along with their application.

What is a national ID/citizenship number (section 1.9)?

The United States doesn't issue national ID/citizenship numbers.  You can either enter  N/A or your driver's license number.

What does itinerary in China (section 2.6) mean?

Itinerary in China means a rough outline of this current trip to China.  Please include the address of the hotel/apartment where you will be staying.  The Chinese Consulate understands that the details of the trip might not be confirmed, but they would like a rough idea of what cities you will be visiting.

Where do I sign the application?

The applicant must always sign the application in Part 4.  If another person has completed the application on your behalf, that person must complete Part 5 and you must sign in Part 4.

What is an invitation letter?

An invitation letter is issued by the inviting company in China.  The letter must include information about the name, gender, nationality, passport information, and birth date of the invitee (applicant).  It must describe the purpose of the visit, the invitees plans while in the country, and specify the validity of the visa being requested (1 year multiple entry, 6 month double entry, etc.).  The invitation letter must also contain contact information about the inviting company, including the full name, job title, address, and phone number of the inviter.  Finally, the invitation letter MUST include the signature of the inviter and the company seal/stamp/chop.

I am traveling to China for business. Do I need a business (M) visa or a Work (Z) visa?

The majority of people traveling to China for meetings, factory tours, and other business purposes need M visas.  In part 2.1 of the application, please check the box for business & trade.  Work (Z) visas apply to individuals who will be living and working long-term in China and requires additional paperwork and must be converted to a resident permit within 30 days of entry to China.  Please contact us if you have any questions about the type of visa you need for your travels.

I am a former Chinese national. Do I need to do anything else when I apply for my visa?

First-time China visa applicants who were born in mainland China or Taiwan need to submit proof that they have renounced their former citizenship when they apply for their first Chinese visa.  They must include their old Chinese or Taiwanese passport with the word 'canceled' stamped on the bio page.  If they have already received a Chinese visa in the past, please include a photocopy of that visa along with the application materials, even if the visa is in an expired passport.

What are some common mistakes made while completing the application?

The most common mistake is sending in an incomplete application. Incomplete applications can take longer to process.  Please pay extra attention to the following areas of the application:

  1. Names- the name the application must match the name in the passport.  If your passport does not include your middle name, do not include it on the visa application form.

  2. Chinese name- Applicants born in mainland China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong must include the Chinese characters of their name in section 1.2. 

  3. Addresses- Please fill out the complete address of your employer and home.  This includes the street, city, and state of each address. 

  4. Don't forget to fill out section 2.9 about previous Chinese visas you have received.

  5. Section 2.10 asks about other countries and territories you have visited over the past 12 months.  If you have not traveled to any other countries, please fill it in with none or N/A. 

  6. Digital signature - DO NOT use digital signatures to sign your application form.  All signatures must be made using black or blue ink.

I have my China visa. How do I read it?

Check out our sample China visa for more details

Vietnam Visa

What is the processing time for a Vietnam visa?

Vietnam visas take approximately 3-5 business days to process.  In certain circumstances, we can process visa applications as quickly as 24 hours or same day.  Please contact our office if you have an emergency situation so we can discuss a timeline with you.

Can the Vietnam visa application form be filled out by hand?

The application form can be filled out by hand; however, the Vietnamese government has recently implemented an electronic application form.  The electronic application form can be completed at  Once completed, print out the application form and sign it.

What is the difference between the visa issue date and the visa validity date?

The date of issue is the day that the Vietnamese Embassy created the visa.  The ‘valid from’ date is the visa start date and indicates the first day that you many enter Vietnam.  It is based upon the proposed date of travel you put on your application form.  Be careful about the proposed date of travel.  If you trip changes to an earlier date than what you had indicated on your application form, you might not be able to use the visa to enter Vietnam.  

What are some common mistakes with the Vietnam visa application?

Incomplete applications are the most common mistake.  Please fill out the application form in its entirety.  Incomplete applications can delay processing.

How do I read my Vietnam visa?

Check out our sample Vietnam visa for more details

India Visa

What is the processing time for India visas?

India visas take about 8-10 days to process in Chicago. Processing times vary depending on the Consulate.  There is no rush service for India visas.  Please allow adequate time for processing.

Where can I find the India visa application?

India visa applications must be filled out online.  They can be found at  After completing the application, please print out the pdf, sign it, and send it to our office along with the accompanying  documentation.

I just noticed a mistake on my India visa application. Can I edit the application?

Once applications have been submitted online and a pdf of the application has been created, they cannot be edited.  Any mistakes made can be changed by refilling out the entire application.  However, applications can be reprinted.

What are invitation letters? How are they different from business letters?

Invitation letters come from the company that is inviting you to meet with them in India.  Letters must be printed on company letterhead and specifically state the type of visa you are applying for (1 year multiple entry business visa, 5 year multiple entry business visa).  The address in the company letterhead must match the address of the company on Part E of the application form.  The letter does not need to be original; it can be a faxed or scanned copy of the letter.


Business letters are letters of introduction from your US company.  They must be printed on company letterhead and signed by someone in management.  The letter should also request the same type of visa as the application form and invitation letter.  Company letterhead must contain the address of the company and match the address listed on the application in Part G. This letter must be original.


I am a non-US passport holder. Is the visa application process different for me?

Non-US passport holders require additional documentation for their India visa applications.  In addition to the application form, additional particulars form, business letter, invitation letter, proof of residence, and travel itinerary, non-US passport holders must also submit a copy of their permanent resident card or valid US visa and complete the non-US citizen form.

The maximum length of a visa that a non-US passport holder may apply for is one (1) year. 

What are some common mistakes with the India visa application?

There are several common mistakes made in the India visa application.  These mistakes can slow down processing.  The Indian Consulate is very strict about its applications.

  1. Choosing the incorrect India Mission-  The first question on the application asks which Indian Mission you are applying to and provides a drop down menu of missions .  Please select the correct mission.  If you have any questions about which Indian mission you should choose, please contact our office.

  2. Forgetting to sign the application- India visa applications must be signed in two places- under the picture on the first page and at the end of the application on the second page.

  3. Mistakes in address- The address on your application must match the address on the driver's license/utility bill as it is written.  If your driver's license says you live on 123 N Main Street, your application must say that you live on 123 N Main Street.   If you have moved to a new address, a recent utility bill can be submitted with the application as proof of residency.

  4. Length of Visa - The application, business letter, and invitation letter must all request the same type of visa (6 month/12 month/60 month/120 month- single entry/multiple entry).  Discrepancies between the letters and application can slow down processing and affect the type of visa granted.  All letters must state the length of visa requested.  The longest visa a Non-US passport holder may apply for is a 1 year visa.

  5. Forgetting letters- India business visa applications need two letters: one letter of invitation from the inviting company in India and a business letter from the US company.  Please visit the India visa section of our website for samples of these letters.

  6. Name- The name on the application must match the name as it is written in your passport.  If your middle name is not on your passport, do not include it on the application.

  7. Driver's license- Please be sure your driver's license is valid.  If you have an extension on your license, please include a photocopy of that sticker and submit it with the rest of your paperwork.  Make sure the copy of the driver's license is clear as the Consulate will be using the address on your driver's license as proof of residence.

  8. Printing Issues- The application may have issues fitting on the letter sized paper because India uses a slightly larger paper size than the United States.  When printing the completed application, please select "fit to page" in order to fit the application on standard letter sized paper.  Applications can be reprinted.

  9. Photos - Applicants cannot wear glasses in their passport photos. The application allows applicant's to upload a photo online.  If you choose to upload a photo, you must also include an actual passport photo with your application.  All photos must be against a solid white background.

  10. Using incorrect forms - The Indian Consulate will change the format of the paperwork required for visas.  Please do not use incorrect forms and check our website or contact our office for the latest information.

How do I read my India visa?

Check out our sample India Visa for more details

Russia Visa

What is the processing time for Russia visa applications?

The processing time depends on the type of visa for which you are applying.  Tourist visas can be processed as quickly as two business days.  Russia business visa applications are a two step process.  First an invitation letter must be ordered.  In order to order an invitation letter, we need a copy of your completed visa application and a color copy of the bio page of your passport, both of which can be emailed to us.  You do not need to send us your application immediately.  After the invitation letter has been received, the application is submitted to the Russian embassy.    


Invitation letters processing times:

3 month double entry = 7-8 business days

1 year multiple entries = 14-16 business days

3 year multiple entries = 1-2 business days


Visa Processing times (at the Russian Embassy):

3 month double entry = 1-2 business days

1 year multiple entries = 1-2 business days

3 year multiple entries = 8-9 business days

Where can I find the Russia visa application? Can I fill it out by hand?

Russian visa applications must be completed online at  They cannot be handwritten.

What is an invitation letter?

To obtain a Russia business visa, you must have an official Russian business visa invitation letter.  These are issued by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce can help you obtain Russia business visa invitation letters.  If you have your own invitation letter, you must send us the original copy or provide us the telex visa invitation number and the date when it will be received by the Russian Embassy.  

What are some common mistakes with Russian visa applications?

Here are some common mistakes on Russian visa applications:

  1. No password - Applicants must provide us with the password they use to complete the online application form.  In order to continue processing the visa, our office needs to have the application ID number and password.

  2. Type of passport- The majority of travelers going to Russia are traveling on a tourist passport, even if the purpose of their visit is business.  Tourist refers to the type of passport you have; for US citizens, this means a blue passport.  In order to complete the rest of the application form, applicants must mark 'tourist' for type of passport.

  3. Incorrect invitation letter- Invitation letters for Russian business visas are issued by the Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   Please contact us if you need help obtaining a letter or are unsure if your invitation letter will work.

  4. Incorrect destination for application- When filling out a Russian visa application, applicants must select 'Visa Application Center ILS (Washington)' as the destination.  Choosing other locations can cause complications that could delay processing.   

  5. Incorrect travel dates - Russia decides the starting date of the visa based on the date of travel put on the application form.  If possible, make your date of entry into Russia a day or two earlier on the application to give yourself breathing room.  You can always enter any time after that entry date but you will not be able to enter the country earlier than that.  

How do I read a Russia visa?

Check out our sample Russia visa for more details

Brazil Visa

What is the processing time for Brazil visa applications?

We offer three different processing times for Brazil visas.  Our standard processing time is 15-20 business days.  This is only available for applicants who live within the Brazilian Consulate in Chicago's jurisdiction (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin).  Our express service is 10-15 business days.  Please contact our office if you have an emergency situation.

I completed my application online but only one page printed out. Is that okay?

Only a one page cover sheet will print out when you print your Brazil visa application.  Please sign in the box before sending this to us.

What does 'nom de contacto' mean?

'Nom de contacto' is the name of a contact person in the United States or Brazil. The following line is for the telephone number of that contact person.

How do I read a Brazil visa?

Check out our sample Brazil visa for more details

Document Authentication

What is document authentication and do I need it?

Documents issued in the United States that are used in China might need to be authenticated by the Chinese Embassy or a Chinese Consulate in the United States before being sent to China.  The documents that might be authenticated include marriage certificates, divorce certificates, passports, business licenses, certificates of good standing, adoption application papers, diplomas, etc.

What application form should I use?

For documents submitted to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, the 'Application Form for Authentication or Notarization (G1)' must be submitted with the other documents.  A copy of this document is available for download in the Document Authentication page of our website.  For documents submitted to other jurisdictions, the 'Application Form of Notarization/Legalization of the Embassy/Consulate of the People's Republic of China' must be submitted.

What is the processing time for document authentication?

In Chicago, there are two processing times for document authentication: express service (48 hours) and standard service (4 business days).  Processing times for other jurisdictions vary.  Please contact our office if you would like to authenticate documents in other jurisdictions.

What is the difference between civil and commercial/property documents?

Examples of civil documents include adoption application papers, power of attorneys, affidavit of single status, marriage certificates, birth certificates, death certificates, etc.  Examples of commercial/property documents are business licenses, labor agreements, inheritance documents, property transfers, appointment letters, etc.  Please contact our office if you are not sure what type of document you have. 

What are some common mistakes made in document authentication?

Here are some common mistakes:

  1. Documents have not been properly notarized by a local Notary Public - Before documents can be submitted to the Chinese Consulate, they must first be notarized and certified by the Secretary of State.  The notary must also date the document.  For samples of notarized documents, please contact our office.

  2. Not including enough documentation- In addition to the application form and the documents being submitted for authentication, applicants need to supply a copy of a government ID (driver's license or passport).  For business documents, applicants also need to provide a copy of the company's business license, Articles of Incorporation, and proof of the applicant's status as a legal representative of the company.  One example of this proof is a signed board of director's resolution appointing the applicant as the legal representative of the company

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China Visa
India Visa
Russia Visa
Brazil Visa
Document Authentication
Vietnam Visa
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