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China restarts the issuance of all types of visas for foreign travellers

Starting immediately and following the latest policies to reopen its borders, China will issue once again all types of visas for foreigners wishing to visit the country, including tourism visa, port visa, and multiple visa-exemption.


Last January, the Chinese government decided to lift most of its COVID-19 restrictions and resume the issuance of the M visa for foreign business professionals traveling to the country in 2023 for commercial and trade activities. However, other types of visas (tourism and medical treatment) were still not available.


International travellers interested in visiting the country should contact their local Chinese embassy or consulate to inquire about details on the application requirements and procedures.

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On March 13 and 14, Chinese embassies published the Notice on Further Adjustment of Visa and Entry Policies for Foreigners to China, which clarifies important information regarding visa issuance for foreigners.


The document states that valid multi-year multiple entry visas issued before March 28, 2020, by the Chinese visa authorities abroad shall resume function. (This will impact foreigners whose 10-year business or tourist visas are still valid.)


The notice adds that foreigners may apply for all types of visas (including those for tourism and medical treatment) and port visas shall once again be issued in line with the relevant laws and regulations.


The visa-exemption policy for Hainan, visa-exemption cruise policy for Shanghai, visa-exemption policy for foreigners to visit Guangdong from Hong Kong and Macao, and visa-exemption policy for ASEAN tour groups to Guilin and Guangxi shall resume operation.


These adjustments to China’s visa issuance policy came into effect on March 15, 2023.


This latest move by Chinese authorities represents an effort to reopen China’s borders and reactivate its economy.


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March of 2020, China imposed some of the strictest health and prevention policies in the world, including lock-downs and travel restrictions on international arrivals.


As the pandemic situation changed globally, China loosened and tightened its anti-Covid policies. Among the many restrictions on international passenger flights, China limited visa availability (including a suspension of tourist visas) and imposed COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements before and after arrival in the country.


Last January, the Chinese government downgraded the pandemic to a Class B infection and eliminated the mandatory centralized quarantine for inbound travellers. Immediately after, the authorities resumed issuance of passports for Chinese mainland residents, ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners, as well as tourist visa exemption for short-term travellers.


After that, China restarted visa applications for most types of visas. However, visas for tourism and medical treatment to China were still not accepted.


The most recent changes will permit foreigners to travel to China for all kinds of purposes, including tourism and medical attention.


Last month, the international business community celebrated the announcement by the Chinese government on the reopening of the borders, after almost three years of restriction and a Zero-Covid policy.


China M or F visa used to confuse many foreign visitors. From 2013, the original F is divided into M and F. The former is for business and trade, while today’s China F visa applies to noncommercial science, tech, and cultural exchanges.


Individuals from the UK, India, Singapore and Australia interested in applying for a M visa must first visit the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre (CVASC) website, fill in an online visa application form, including a recent photograph, and make an in-person appointment at a visa center, using the reservation form. All other nationals must visit their local consulate to request an appointment.


The application should be submitted at least one month prior to travel, but not earlier than three months.


Foreign professionals requesting an M visa must present a China Business Visa Invitation Letter issued by a Chinese business or trade partner; or issued by duly authorized Chinese institutes or relevant units; or by a trade fair.

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The invitation letter must include the applicant’s details; details of the planned visit (including purpose, dates, locations, etc.); details of the inviting party (including official stamp, signature of the legal representative or individual,) and Chinese ID if the inviting party is a Chinese individual.


After entering China, if the duration of stay cannot cover the trip, it’s possible to go to the local exit and entry administration to apply for a China business visa extension at least seven days before the original M visa expires.


F visa is issued to foreigners invited to China for a noncommercial exchange, investigation or visits for scientific and technological education, cultural exchanges, health, or sports activities. In some cases, foreigners with a need to travel frequently in and out of China over a longer period may be granted a 12-month multiple entry F visa.


It is recommended that travellers planning on visiting China soon double check all visa requirements with their local Chinese consulate or embassy, at the city of origin.


 

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