China rolls out new measures to facilitate foreigners’ visit to country
Move aims to boost trade, tourism and people-to-people exchange,help clear off disinformation
Published: Jan 11, 2024 08:56 PM Updated: Jan 11, 2024 10:25 PM
Chinese visa Concept photo: VCG

Chinese visa Concept photo: VCG

China's National Immigration Administration (NIA) officially implements five measures to facilitate foreign nationals coming to China, effective on Thursday, including relaxing visa application requirements and simplifying visa application materials. This move represents that China continues to speed up its opening-up to the outside world.

The sluggish recovery of international flights and Western media's disinformation against China are partly responsible for the slow recovery of foreigners' visits to China, said experts. However, they anticipate a boost in visits to China in the coming year. This increase in tourism not only has the potential to enhance trade and people-to-people exchanges but also allows foreigners to gain firsthand experiences and information in China, thereby dispelling any malicious disinformation propagated by Western media. 

Liu Haitao, an official from NIA, announced the measures at a conference held on Thursday. One of these measures include the relaxation of the conditions for foreign nationals to apply for port visas to China. For foreign nationals who urgently need to engage in business cooperation, visit exchanges, investment and other non-diplomatic and non-official activities, if they are unable to obtain a visa overseas in time, they can apply for a port visa to enter China by presenting invitation letters and other relevant supporting documents to the port visa authorities.

Foreign nationals can transit through Beijing Capital Airport and other designated international airports in China without going through immigration procedures for up to 24 hours. This policy applies to nine international airports, including Beijing Capital, Beijing Daxing, Shanghai Pudong, and Xi'an Xianyang. 

Travelers with international connecting flights within 24 hours can transit through any of these airports to a third country or region without going through immigration procedures and enjoy visa-free transit, said Liu. 

The measures will also allow foreign nationals to apply for visa extensions, replacements, or reissues at the nearest location. Foreign nationals who need to enter and exit China multiple times can apply for reentry visas, as the application process will now be simplified.

For foreign nationals applying for visas, if their accommodation registration records and business licenses can be accessed through information sharing, they are exempt from providing relevant paper documents for verification. For foreign nationals in China applying for short-term family reunion visas, a declaration of kinship by the inviting person can be used instead of proof of kinship.

According to the official, as China's economy continues to recover and improve, and its level of opening-up to the outside world expands, there has been a surge in demand for enhanced immigration management services from both domestic and foreign enterprises and individuals. 

In response, the NIA is proactively collaborating with relevant authorities to address key challenges and obstacles pertaining to the entry of foreigners for business, study, and tourism in China. 

[The recent new measures] are a game-changer for business, a British national doing business in Shanghai who only gave his name as Barrie told the Global Times on Thursday. "This could open up all kinds of opportunities. I can say from experience that the visa application procedures (even for visiting) had been challenging in the past, this easing of process for foreigners to enter will bring flows of travelers, and workers, and commerce."

Border inspection authorities across China checked a total of 210 million visitors entering the country in 2023, recovering to 62.9 percent of the levels seen in 2019. The number of visitors entering the country will continue to rise in 2024 thanks to the resumption of international flights and cross-border personnel exchanges, said an official from the NIA.

The NIA said the number of new applications and replacements for 'Five-Star Card' that is designated for foreign permanent residents increased significantly. Foreigners with permanent residence permits in China can apply for financial services, including banking, securities, and foreign exchanges, said the administration. 

Open up further and wider

The latest measures are in line with China's offering of visa-free policy to six countries last year and Central Economic Work Conference held at the end of last year, signaling efforts should be made to foster new drivers of foreign trade, Miao Lu, secretary general of Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based non-governmental think tank, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Last month, China rolled out a one-year visa-free policy to ordinary passport holders from six countries - France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia - starting from December 1, 2023. 

Charles Loke Chee Kin, a Malaysian who has business ties with China, told the Global Times on Thursday, "I used to fly to China once a month. In the past, I had to apply for a visa every time which requires long processing. Now, with the implementation of the visa-free policy between China and Malaysia, it is really convenient for overseas personnel like us who come to China frequently."

Miao said apart from stimulating trade and tourism, the new policies also aim to promote people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries. 

According to experts, there is still significant potential for increasing the number of foreigners visiting China, as the number of visitors entering the country in 2023 only reached 62.9 percent of the pre-pandemic level. Miao suggests that one major factor contributing to this slow recovery is the sluggish rebound of international flights.

By the end of 2023, China's scheduled international passenger flights had returned to 4,782 flights per week, around 62.8 percent of the pre-pandemic level, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Monday

The pervasive toxic anti-China rhetoric that prevails in the West has undoubtedly taken a psychological toll on some individuals, instilling fear and apprehension in their minds when considering a visit to China, Zhang Yiwu, a professor of Chinese language and literature from Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

For example, some foreign media have been hyping China's revised Counter-Espionage Law since April 2023. A piece published in the Wall Street Journal in April 2023 said that the law and "China's detention of foreigners" have made businesses worried and spooked people who plan to travel there.

Zhang expressed his concerns over the Western media's distortion and defamation of China's efforts to safeguard its national security. He emphasized that this has hindered meaningful people-to-people exchanges. He highlighted that the latest measures, coupled with China's warm gesture, will effectively convey the message that the country welcomes individuals with legitimate intentions. Zhang believes that firsthand experiences in China will dispel the unfounded negative portrayal perpetuated by biased Western media reports.