Indian students prepare for return to China as China resumes visas for intl students
Published: Aug 23, 2022 10:35 PM
Indian students take a selfie with other schoolmates in a Chinese univeristy Photo: IC

Indian students take a selfie with other schoolmates in a Chinese univeristy Photo: IC

Indian students are thrilled to prepare their visa applications in the hope they can return to universities in China as soon as possible, after the Chinese Embassy in India announced it would resume processing student visas for Indian students from Wednesday. Chinese embassies in around a dozen other countries have also announced a resumption for long-term student visas after a halt of more than two years due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'm happy to finally have good news after a long time. I just requested the letter of return from my university. Hope to get it soon so I can go through the visa process… I heard some doctoral and master's students already have the documents from their universities," Summer, an Indian student who studies in Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Tuesday. 

The Chinese Embassy in India updated "Application Procedures and Material Requirements of China Visa," with 10 categories of visas, including business, family visit and student visas, which are open for applications from Wednesday, according to a notice released by the embassy. 

A questionnaire by a university in Hubei Province obtained by the Global Times showed it has started to collect information of international students who wish to return to China. It says, "2018 international students currently abroad can return to China in October or November."

Returning students are required to follow China's epidemic prevention and control policies and will have to be put in quarantine when they arrive in the country. The expenses for quarantine will be paid by the students themselves. Vaccination certificates are required to be submitted first. If all conditions are met, the students would be given a letter of return, a mandatory document for visa application.

Ji Rong, a counselor from the Department of Asian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, apparently received lot of requests from international students about if universities could speed up their documents. She tweeted on Tuesday "What I've learnt from #MOE colleague is #Chinese universities welcome you back & need some time to get prepared since new study #visa policy just announced. Believe #universities will try their best to speed up process, & your teachers welcome you back to campus!"

However, flights between China and India and many other countries have yet to resume. 

Some Indian students reached by the Global Times expressed their worries over anticipated high prices for flight tickets. Indian students are requesting the resumption of direct flights between India and China as early as possible on a reasonable rate because the students cannot afford the high costs of flight tickets, Summer and Asif, another student from India, told the Global Times.

There are currently no scheduled passenger flights between China and India, according to data provided by information provider VariFlight on Tuesday.

The platform said there was a total of 215 scheduled passenger flights from China to 11 countries in Southeast Asia from August 1 to 22, of which nearly 40 percent are to Thailand and Singapore, and the departure airport is mainly Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in South China's Guangdong Province.

From August 24 till the end of August, there will be 109 scheduled passenger flights from China to 11 countries in Southeast Asia, with an average of 14 scheduled per day, four more flights per day than the actual number of flights from August 1 to 22. The top three destination countries with the largest number of flights are Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, VariFlight told the Global Times.

Prior to COVID-19, 492,000 international students came to China in 2018, according to data from the Chinese Ministry of Education. Students from India, 23,198, ranked fourth after 50,600 students from South Korea, 28,608 students from Thailand and 28,023 from Pakistan. 

The influx of international students to China in the latter half of the year could be high.

Students from countries such as the Philippines, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bolivia, Lebanon, Vietnam and Japan will also be granted entry to China, according to notices released by Chinese embassies in these countries on Wednesday.

China's resumption of visa issuance to international students comes as most countries have opened their borders and the expectation for normal people-to-people exchanges and communication between countries is high, Lu Hongzhou, head of the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen and an experienced Chinese doctor in combating the COVID-19 epidemic, told the Global Times.

Welcoming students back does not mean China has relaxed its strict COVID-19 prevention and control measures that it has carried out for more than two years, nor does it mean China has abandoned its dynamic-zero COVID policy. International arrivals are still required to abide by China's epidemic prevention policy, which ensures their own health and safety and avoids the possibility of imported outbreaks in China, Lu said.

Since the new anti-COVID playbook was adopted in late June, the quarantine period for international arrivals was shortened to 10 days - seven days of centralized quarantine and three days of home quarantine, from previous 21 days. 

Lu said China will further optimize quarantine and other anti-epidemic measures with a precise and scientific manner based on how to better protect the people of the country. 

But the expert said further shortening the quarantine period for inbound travelers in the short term is unlikely. "Though the Omicron variant has lower virulence than Delta, it could still cause a lot of deaths. And only when people across the country have built an effective immune barrier against COVID-19 will it be time to reopen."