Please read this entire page carefully before embarking on the visa process.

Note: participants must apply for a Category F visa, for “academic visitors, educational visits” in accordance with the Exit/Entry Laws of the PRC.

AFTER RECEIVING YOUR VISA, PLEASE SEND A COLOR SCAN OR PHOTOGRAPH TO GLOBALTRAVEL@DUKE.EDU in order to be cleared for booking flights and/or cost reimbursement.

The list of required items is as follows:

  1. A valid passport which does not expire before 15 February 2025.  Applicants must have at least 6 months of validity from the date of your intended departure AND two, consecutively numbered BLANK pages that are designated for VISAS (this is printed on the page as in this example
    1. For non-U.S. visa applicants, if you’re applying for your PRC visa from a country in which you do not have citizenship, you must have a legal status that is also valid for at least 6 months beyond the trip dates.  E.g., your U.S. Student Visa must not expire before 15 February 2025 as well.
  1. One digital headshot in the correct specifications for China visa photos, which are strictly enforced You can view the photo requirements online at
    1. Photos must be recent and cannot be the same photo used for your passport booklet.
    2. If you would like to email digital headshots to to change the background or see if the photo will be accepted by China’s system, please do so.
  1. Proof of residence for the state/province you list in your visa application. The allowable forms of proof are your State-issued Driver’s License, Utility bill or Lease/Mortgage document with your name and address clearly printed.
    1. The residential address listed in your application and supported by the proof of evidence document must be located within the region served by either the PRC Embassy or Consulate through which you are applying. For example, residents of Durham cannot apply through the China Consulate in New York but must apply through the China Embassy in Washington DC.
  1. Complete, sign and date the “Where you stay” form (PDF) to accompany the copy noted above.  Please sign/date in BLUE INK.
  2. Complete the Qualtrics survey online at to provide the information needed for the drafting and issuance of your DKU Invitation Letter and Letter of Financial Guarantee from Duke University.  Both must accompany your COVA hard-copy submission.  Please allow 3-5 business days for both letters once you submit your survey responses.
  1. After receiving your DKU and Duke letters via email, complete the China Online Visa Application (COVA).
    1. The COVA System link is:
    2. Select which language and click on the appropriate red box;
    3. Select which continent you are applying from;
    4. Scroll down to your country and the city of the Embassy or Consulate that covers the region in which you legally reside. (For U.S. residents, view your
    5. Follow the steps outlined (and pictured) in the COVA Instructional PPT to complete your form and electronically submit to the appropriate Embassy/Consulate.

Note: you may view a PDF with step-by-step instructions for filling out your COVA by clicking 

If you still encounter issues, or are having problems filling out the COVA, please contact Christy Parrish for guidance.


Notes on the Processing

Once your COVA is complete, follow the steps to electronically submit it to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate that serves the region in which you reside.

At this point, you can either

1. Make an appointment for your own physical submission of your Passport and COVA.  The applicant is required to appear in-person (Chinese Embassies/Consulates do NOT accept submissions by mail).  Processing can take up to 4 business days.  You will be given a pickup ticket after submitting your passport, COVA and supporting documents and asked to return in a few days to pay and collect your passport.  If dropping off in-person, some Embassies/Consulates allow for expedited (overnight) processing.  You simply need to ask and agree to pay whatever the fee is for faster service. That said, do not wait to submit your application expecting expedited service to be offered.


2. You can rely on the services of an expediting agency to make the appointment and submission on your behalf.  Chinese Embassies/Consulates have a list of "approved providers" and Duke has trusted Travel Document Express  (TDE) as our provider in this space for over 15 years.  TDE can assist with submissions to all Chinese Consulates and the Embassy in the United States.

After submitting your online COVA, you would print all pages and follow the instructions to mail your passport and supporting documents to TDE for them to process through the Embassy or Consulate that applies for where you reside.   Expediting agencies do charge services fees, and you should weigh the cost difference between applying yourself (which may entail travel to another State and overnight lodging) against using an experienced/approved agency.  You can contact TDE with any questions through its website noted above.

Whether you submit your materials yourself or use an agency to do so, you will be required to print the COVA and corresponding QR Code page then sign in BLUE INK where indicated (bottom of the QR page and page 7, Section 9.1).

You must prepare all of the following items to include with your application package, whether you submit it yourself or via an expeditor:

  • Original passport booklet;
  • Printed, signed and dated COVA;
  • If applicable, a color copy of your legal status (e.g., residency permit, student visa, etc. of the nation in which you are presently residing)host nation)
  • Where You Stay form, completed and signed
  • Proof of residency (e.g,, driver’s license, etc.).
  • Invitation letter from DKU; and
  • Support letter from Duke.

If you have any questions, please write Christy Parrish (