Available options for conducting business affairs in China when a personal visit is required.
China’s immigration rules during the COVID-19 pandemic have been strictly enforced. A population of 1.4 billion, coupled with increased urbanization over the past twenty years have made the specter of mass transmission a real possibility, hence the protocols. Foreign travel to China has been discouraged at this time specifically to prevent the spread of any imported covid strains entering the country while the authorities race to develop new vaccines and build a safe social environment.
China Entry Visa Protocols During COVID-19
That said, there are available protocols to go through should foreign nationals need to visit China during the current China travel restrictions. A China travel ban effective from March 28. 2020 stated that:
“In view of the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world, China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits still valid to the time of this announcement, effective from midnight, 28 March 2020. Entry by foreign nationals with APEC Business Travel Cards are also suspended. Policies including port visas, 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, the Hainan 30-day visa-free policy, the 15-day visa-free policy specified for foreign cruise-group-tour through Shanghai Port, the Guangdong 144-hour visa-free policy specified for foreign tour groups from Hong Kong or Macao SAR, and the Guangxi 15-day visa-free policy specified for foreign tour groups of ASEAN countries are also temporarily suspended. Entry with diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas will not be affected. Foreign nationals coming to China for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or emergency humanitarian needs may apply for visas at Chinese embassies or consulates. Entry by foreign nationals with visas issued after this announcement will not be affected.”
There is a special visa application channel open for the invitee to deal with necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities. These require additional special visa application procedures, including the need for an invitation letter (PU, TE, or Invitation Verification Notice) issued by the Chinese government. Among the three type invitation letters, the PU letter is the one used for M-visa, Z-visa, or Q1/Q2-visa.
The PU Invitation Letter
The PU letter should be applied via a China based entity. The standard procedures are as follows:
- The Chinese entity (company) must liaise with the Foreign Affairs Office of the district where company is registered for the PU letter application
- The Foreign Affairs Office of the district will send a list of required documents to the company
- The company prepares the required documents and submits these to the Foreign Affairs Office of the relevant district for a first round review
- The Foreign Affairs District Office submits the application documents to the Foreign Affairs Office of the local Municipal Government (Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing etc.) for PU letter approval
- The Foreign Affairs Office of the Municipal Government issues the PU letter for the foreign invitation.
There are additional stipulations. The invitee should be an employee of the China-based company, and documentary proof, such as a copy of the existing China work permit, or the Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit for a new contract.
Alternatively, for the purpose of urgent business activities, the government will consider whether foreigners are eligible for entry if there are important projects to be implemented – typically including MNCs cooperating in China government projects.
Example of a PU Invitation Letter
Foreigners with Valid Residence Permits
On September 23, 2020, the MOFA released the Announcement on Entry by Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Chinese Residence Permits of Three Categories, announcing that foreigners with valid residence permits for work, personal matters, and reunion, would be allowed to enter the country without needing to re-apply for new visas starting from 0 a.m., September 28, 2020.
Under the policy, if the above residence permits had expired – after March 28, 2020 – the holders could re-apply for relevant visas by presenting the expired residence permits and relevant materials to the Chinese embassies or consulates. But no invitation letter would be required. The re-application had to be on the condition that the purpose of the holders’ visit to China remained unchanged.
This policy doesn’t apply to foreign nationals from the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Russia, Ukraine, Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and South Africa, after several Chinese embassies released the Notice on the Temporary Suspension of Entry into China by Non-Chinese Nationals in the (Country) Holding Valid Chinese Visas or Residence Permits in early November 2020.
Foreigners Inoculated with Chinese Vaccines
There are also protocols for foreign nationals and their family members inoculated with Chinese vaccines.
In early March 2021, several Chinese embassies released the Notice on Providing Facilitation for Visa Applicants Inoculated with COVID-19 Vaccines Produced in China, announcing that travelers who have received Chinese COVID-19 vaccines and obtained the vaccination certificate will enjoy facilitation for visa applications starting from March 15, 2021. The Notice stipulates:
“For Foreign visa applicants who have been inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines produced in China and possess vaccination certificates, they and their family members visiting China for resuming work can apply for a visa with the normal documents that were required before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Invitation Letter (PU), Invitation Letter (TE) or Invitation Verification Notice issued by the foreign affairs offices or the departments of commerce of the provincial governments will not be required.”
This means that if foreigners were inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines produced in China and have vaccination certificates, then there is no need to apply for an invitation letter. Rather, they only need to provide the documents required before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bear in mind that it may be required to have a China-attested translation of the vaccine certificate if the China vaccine inoculations took place overseas.
As mentioned above, the issuance of such special business visa is based on the humanitarian requirement, for the invitee to deal with necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities. To determine suitability from the outset, applicants should ask themselves:
- Does your company have a legal entity in China?
- Does the proposed employee have a work permit/residence permit with any legal entity in China?
- Whether there are pressing and urgent issues to handle in China. These require complete details to show your visit to China is urgent and irreplaceable.
China Travel Application Services
Dezan Shira and Associates can assist with PU letter applications. Typically, our services will be divided into two stages:
Stage 1: General Advisory
- Introduction of special business visa application process and requirement
- Required document list preparation
- Initial consultation with the local authorities
- One round review of prepared documents
Stage 2: Implementation of the special visa application
- Communication with all involved local authorities on behalf of the invitee and inviter
- Preparation and submission of all required documents
- Obtaining the special invitation letter
These are non-refundable chargeable services payable at the commencement of each stage. Readers should also note we take these applications on a case-by-case basis, and we cannot guarantee success. Accordingly, we obtain an opinion from the local Foreign Affair Office in Stage 1 to determine the possibility of success prior to submitting applications in Stage 2.
Use of Proxy
Should the need to visit China be pressing, but PU or other invitations prove insurmountable, it may be possible to arrange for one of our staff in China to represent you by proxy. This could involve, for example, financial reviews, legal matters, or contract negotiations. Our professional services staff are fluent in Chinese and English with many possessing other linguistic skills in Italian, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and so on. Our firm has 13 offices throughout China and can assist in most locations.
Please ask for assistance by emailing us at email@example.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com
China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Germany, Italy, India, and Russia, in addition to our trade research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative. We also have partner firms assisting foreign investors in The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh.