China Relaxes Rules for On-Arrival Business Visas
China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has released a new set of measures that will enable people traveling to China for business or trade activities to apply for a business visa on arrival. In addition, new rules on residence permits will allow applicants to retain their passports during the application procedure.
The new measures do not yet provide specific details on the requirements for the on-arrival business entry visa. According to MPS officials cited by the Global Times, the relevant departments will strive to finalize the measures and implement the new rules by the end of August.
Facilitation of an-arrival business visa
The new measures allow foreigners traveling to China for business activities on short notice to apply for a business visa on arrival, rather than having to obtain one before traveling.
Foreigners who are traveling to China for activities, such as business negotiations, business exchanges, installation and maintenance, participation in exhibitions and conferences, and investment and entrepreneurship, who do not have time to apply for a business visa at a visa center abroad, will be permitted to apply for a port visa upon arrival. They will be required to show a company invitation letter and supporting materials.
In addition, people who need to travel to and from China multiple times for commercial business reasons will be permitted to reissue a valid three-year multiple-entry business visa after entering the country.
This will significantly facilitate cross-border people exchange and make it easier for employees of foreign and multinational companies to visit their offices in China.
China already has a port visa system that allows people to travel to China without obtaining a visa in advance, including for business purposes. However, the applicant has to have an invitation letter from the relevant unit stating that there is an emergency situation that the traveler has to attend to. This means that obtaining a visa on arrival is not guaranteed, and purposes such as attending events or meetings would likely not be accepted.
In general, foreigners traveling to China for trade or business activities are required to apply for an “M” business visa in advance. This involves submitting required materials along with the passport or valid travel document to a Chinese visa service center in the person’s country of nationality or residence.
In addition, as business visas are generally only single-entry and short-term (generally 30 days), people who need to travel to and from China frequently are required to re-apply for a business visa each time they return, provided they don’t have other visa arrangements.
At this moment it is unclear whether travelers will be required to enter China through specific ports to apply for the business visa on arrival, as is the case with other on-arrival entry permits. Further announcements from the MPS in the coming month are expected to clarify the specific implementation procedures.
Retention of passport during residence permit applications
In addition to the changes to the business visa, the new measures also state that foreigners applying for residence permits in China will now be able to hold on to their passports during the processing of their application.
All foreigners who enter China on a work or study visa and intend to stay in China for work or study long-term are required to convert the entry visa to a residence permit within 30 days of arriving in China by applying at the local public security bureau. This is normally done with assistance from the company, school, or other institution that is enabling the person to live in China.
Previously, applicants would have to hand in their passports to the local public security bureau, which would keep them for the duration of the application (usually around three weeks). While the public security bureau would issue a temporary travel document to applicants during this period, applicants could only travel within China with this document and were unable to travel internationally.
Improving conditions for foreign investment
The Chinese government has been making efforts to attract foreign investment since reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2022. Efforts have generally come in the form of creating a more equal playing field for foreign companies in China, focusing on providing more opportunities in areas such as government bidding, better protection of intellectual property rights, and improvements to the overall business environment in China.
These latest changes to the business visa requirements can be seen as a more direct mechanism for encouraging business travel to and from China for employees of foreign companies.
As processing times for business visas can vary, this procedure can hinder people from traveling on short notice, which can be particularly troublesome for people traveling to handle urgent situations or last-minute events and meetings. In addition, facilitating the application of multi-entry business visas will also reduce the administrative burden on companies and make it easier for staff to make frequent and last-minute visits to China.
However, the effectiveness of the on-arrival business visa will also depend on its implementation, which has not been detailed yet. We will continue to monitor announcements from the MPS and provide updates on the documentation and procedures required for the on-arrival business visa.
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 email@example.com.
Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Germany, Italy, India, Dubai (UAE), 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.
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