China to resume visa issuance for foreigners, fulfill its commitment in further opening-up
Published: Mar 14, 2023 09:22 PM
Inbound passengers arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in east China's Shanghai, Jan. 8, 2023. From Sunday, China starts managing COVID-19 with measures designed for combating Class B infectious diseases, instead of Class A infectious diseases. (Xinhua/Ding Ting)

Inbound passengers arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in east China's Shanghai, Jan. 8, 2023. (Xinhua/Ding Ting)

Business representatives, commerce chambers and foreigners welcomed China's decision to resume visa issuance for foreigners, which takes effect from Wednesday. The move signals a significant change in the country's COVID response measures and a return to normalcy. 

As more foreign executives and ordinary people are planning to visit China soon, observers believe that lifting visa curbs will help restore people-to-people exchanges and ease China's relations with some countries, injecting new momentum into the post-pandemic recovery. 

Some observers see the latest adjustment as the first boon following this year's two sessions - the country's most important annual political gatherings, which fully underscores China's firm determination of continuing to open up in a way that is conducive not only to the country, but also to the world. 

China's Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday it will resume issuing all categories of visas from Wednesday, aiming to further facilitate cross-border travel. Long-term visas issued before March 28, 2020 which had been suspended, are still valid and will allow foreign visitors to enter China.

The Chinese Embassies in the US, Canada, France, United Arab Emirates, and South Korea released notices on the adjustment of visa and entry policies for foreigners to China. 

After China downgraded its COVID management policies on January 8 and issued a slew of measures facilitating cross-border travel, the moves were welcomed by the global community. To further facilitate people-to-people exchanges and economic cooperation, China decided to resume the entry function of visas that had been issued before the epidemic that are still valid and resume the issuance of all types of visas including travel visas and regional visa-free policies, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a routine press conference on Tuesday.

In addition to the resumption of visa issuance, some visa-free policies for foreign tourist groups from Hong Kong and Macao entering South China's Guangdong Province, tourists from some countries entering South China's Hainan Province and cruise ships passing through Shanghai ports will resume. 

"Exciting news! China has resumed issuing all kinds of visas, including tourism! We in the Israeli consulate in Guangzhou welcome everyone to come and explore the beauty of this incredible region," Aviv Zell, an Israeli diplomat at the country's Guangzhou consulate, said in a Tweet on Tuesday. 

The excitement was shared by foreign business groups in China, some of which see the adjustment as a positive development and an indication of China's ongoing commitment to opening-up as emphasized during the just-concluded two sessions.

Adjustment widely welcomed 

"Canadian executives, investors and entrepreneurs welcome the news of the updated visa policy - there are thousands of business visas issued to Canadian executives pre-pandemic that are still within their validity period. New visa issuance is a time-consuming burden and this return to the previous rules will encourage a resumption in travel," Noah Fraser, managing director and chief representative of the Canada China Business Council in China, was quoted as saying in a statement sent to the Global Times on Tuesday. 

The British Chamber of Commerce in China said it is pleased to see such swift action being taken in turning commitments and statements at the two sessions into tangible outcomes. 

"We hope that these further steps will boost international interest in engaging with China and ultimately result in an increase in visitors to the country. This, in turn, would contribute to rebuilding trust, mutual understanding and mark another step toward restoring China's image as a destination for international talent and business," the chamber said. 

Today's long-awaited announcement removes a significant barrier to the normalization of travel. Moving forward, we urgently seek more flight options to and from the US, which will help to bring ticket prices back to an affordable level, as well as improved visa processing times, Colm Rafferty, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham China) Chairman, said in a statement that AmCham China sent to the Global Times on Tuesday. 

This rapid adjustment is the first boon after the two sessions and will help increase people-to-people exchanges and attract tourism and business. This is an opportunity for post-pandemic recovery, not only for China but also for the world, Wang Huiyao, president of nongovernmental think tank the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"The world will see China turning its promise of further opening up into concrete actions," Wang said. 

Further opening up 

A handful of business conferences planned in China in the coming months are  expected to be a draw for company leaders, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier. They include the China Development Forum (CDF), an annual global economic conference scheduled for late March, as well as the Boao Forum for Asia to be held in South China's Hainan Province in late March.

Top executives weighing a visit to the China Development Forum in Beijing, China's showcase global business event, include Apple's CEO Tim Cook and Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla, according to media reports. 

HSBC executives are also scheduled to attend the CDF in Beijing, the Global Times learned from the multinational bank. It believes that as the pace of China's economic recovery is accelerating, it injects confidence into global markets and drives business growth for foreign companies operating in China. 

Chinese Premier Li Qiang said China will maintain its opening-up policy and welcome investors from all over the world at a press conference on Monday following the conclusion of the two sessions. 

"Opening-up is a basic state policy for China. No matter how the external situation may evolve, we will stay firmly committed to pursuing this policy," he said, noting that the country will further expand opening-up in alignment with high-standard trade rules this year, and China will only open itself wider to the world.

Gradually resuming people-to-people exchanges will help increase communication, help ease the country's relations with some countries and rebuild the image of Chinese people in the world, Huo Jianguo, vice president of the China Institute for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

However, Huo believes that the resumption is a gradual process, especially in some countries that have previously set up some obstacles for China travelers.