China Reopens Borders, Visa Channels to 36 European Countries

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  • Breaking News: According to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Immigration Administration on Wednesday, foreign nationals holding valid Chinese residence permits for work, personal matters, and reunion can enter China without applying for new visas – effective from 0 am, September 28, 2020. If these 3 categories of residence permits as held by foreign nationals have expired (in the time since the travel ban was imposed on March 28, 2020) – the holders may apply for relevant visas by presenting the expired residence permits and relevant material to the Chinese embassies or consulates on the condition that the purpose of the holder’s visit to China remains unchanged (see here). All other measures in the March 26 Announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Immigration Administration on the Temporary Suspension of Entry by Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Chinese Visas or Residence Permits (see here) will continue to be implemented.

By Fuki Fu, Assistant Manager, HR, Dezan Shira & Associates Shanghai Office

On August 10, The PRC Embassy in Denmark announced that China will allow eligible foreign nationals from 36 European countries to apply for new Chinese visas at any Chinese embassy or consulate within the stipulated countries. On August 12, the Chinese embassy in Berlin, Germany published a similar announcement.

Eligible applicants will not be required to submit an invitation letter and will be able to apply for a Chinese visa “free of charge”.

To clarify, the announcement opens up travel from specific European countries both within the European Union (which has 27 member-states) and outside the EU.

What are the eligibility criteria for foreign nationals applying for Chinese visas?

  • Passport holders from the 36 stipulated European countries and holding valid residence permit, including residence permit for work, residence permit for family reunion, or residence permit for personal matters.

Which European countries are on the list?

In alphabetical order, the following 36 European countries are on the list:

  • Albania, Austria
  • Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland, France
  • Germany, Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland, Ireland, Italy
  • Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg
  • Malta, Montenegro
  • Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway
  • Poland, Portugal
  • Romania
  • Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain
  • United Kingdom

This is a significant development for foreign nationals who have been seeking entry into China.

Since March 28 this year, the Chinese government has suspended entry for most foreigners, including holders of valid visa or residence permits.

The exceptions to this travel ban have been few. For example, the Chinese government has facilitated visa applications of foreign nationals seeking entry into China for essential economic, trade, scientific, and technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs.

As per the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian: “Recently, as the situation has been brought under control in many countries, people are looking forward to making foreign trips. Thus, China is relaxing in an orderly and gradual manner visa restrictions for foreigners entering China to resume economic activities and for other essential purposes. One more point to highlight is that for those who hold valid visa or residence permit but need visa renewal, Chinese embassies and consulates will provide them visa service for free.”

The new announcement reopening visa services for 36 European countries is the first sign that shows China is reversing the foreign national travel ban put into effect in late March when the coronavirus pandemic affected many countries. We now expect Chinese borders to open to increasingly more countries, likely to be based on their respective pandemic response.

However, no official announcement has been made by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any other EU embassy so far. We expect further information to be released and to have practical cases very soon.

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