By Giulia Interesse
From January 8, 2023, China has resumed the issuance of visas for foreign nationals. As the country continues to open up, we take a closer look at the 2023 Chinese visa application guidelines.
China began easing immigration procedures on January 8, 2023, after the downgrading of COVID-19 to a Class B infectious disease and the removal of centralized quarantine for inbound travelers.
Beijing has promised to gradually resume the issuance of ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners, as well as tourist visa exemption for short-term travelers. The lifting of quarantine regulations means that mainland Chinese residents can travel abroad for the first time since national borders were closed almost three years ago. China also announced the restart of pilot outbound tours to selected countries. Yet, it should be noted that visa resumption is a process.
As per announcements posted by some Chinese embassies, China has resumed visa applications for most types. Meanwhile, visa applications for tourism and medical treatment to China are currently still on hold. Foreigners who need to apply for China visas should confirm with their local Chinese embassies or consulates to find out if the visa they want to apply for is currently available or not.
Read on for the latest Chinese visa application guidelines, the characteristics of each type of visa, and the supporting documentation required.
What type of Chinese visa can be applied for in 2023?
As per the announcement from most Chinese embassies, the following types of visas are available for application:
Additional information and documentation may be needed, depending on the applicant’s place of origin, where the application is being submitted, and where the applicant plans to travel.
When dealing with visa-related processes, prospective travelers to China can contact their local Chinese embassy or consulate and seek specific guidance, as regulations may vary case-by-case.
Who does not need a visa to China?
The following categories of foreigners can enter China without a visa:
- Foreigners covered by different agreements for reciprocal visa exemption: Based on specific bilateral agreements among countries, certain foreign nationals who satisfy specific criteria may enter China without a visa.
- Foreigners who are eligible for the 24-hour visa-free transit arrangement: Foreigners who will only stay within the airport (and not cross the border) for no longer than 24 hours and have a valid connecting ticket with confirmed seating on an international aircraft, are free from needing a visa to transit through China by air.
- Foreigners with various forms of valid residence permits: Foreign nationals who want to study, work, or are resident foreign journalists in China must apply for a residency permit from the local public security authorities within 30 days of their entrance. For the duration of the permit’s validity, permit holders can be in the country without the need to apply for a visa.
- International travelers with current APEC business travel cards: The APEC Business Travel Card is an alternative to a three-year multiple-entry visa. A cardholder may enter China more than once during the card’s validity – for a stay of no longer than two months each time.
- Foreigners with valid Permanent Residence Certificates in China.
- Foreigners who will visit a China city where a 72/144-hour transit visa-free policy is applicable: Some cities allow travelers to visit the province of their arrival or a specific region without a visa for a certain period (72 hours or 144 hours).
What to do before entering China in 2023?
All travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, have to complete one PCR test within 48 hours before departure and to only board an aircraft if their nucleic acid result is negative.
The application for the health code is no longer necessary.
One PCR test may be taken in either the city of departure or the airport/city of your transfer if you are traveling to China via a third country.
China’s steps toward opening up in 2023
As illustrated above, the Announcement of the Optimized Policies and Measures for Immigration Administration after the Downgrade of COVID-19 Management with Measures Against Class B Infectious Diseases (Announcement), issued on December 27, 2022, by China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA), introduced several facilitations regarding visa applications for foreigners. This is a sign that China is slowly opening back up.
In the words of Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the 2023 World Economic Forum, China is on a clear path to “open up wider, and make it work better.”
In view of the recent positive policy transitions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its 2023 China growth outlook sharply to 5.2 percent (from 4.4 percent in its October 2022 forecast), citing the reopening of the country’s economy after Beijing lifted its tight COVID-19 restrictions.
Tourism will be among the industries to benefit the most from this new approach in 2023. China’s outbound tourism showed an impressive recovery during the 2023 Spring Festival period, with outbound tours booking and hotel occupancy reaching a three-year high.
In addition, while foreigners who hold 5-year or 10-year tourist visas are still unable to enter China as of January 2023, this type of visa may soon be valid again as proof of Beijing’s efforts to open to the world.
This article was first published by China Briefing, which is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, India, and Russia. Readers may write to email@example.com for more support.