China to Allow Entry of Foreigners with Valid Residence Permits

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On September 23, the Ministry of Foreign Affair (MFA) released the Announcement on Entry by Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Chinese Residence Permits of Three Categories.

From 0 a.m., September 28, 2020, foreigners with valid residence permits for work, personal matters, and reunion, are allowed enter the country without needing to re-apply for new visas.

If the above residence permits have expired – after March 28, 2020 – the holders may re-apply for relevant visas by presenting the expired residence permits and relevant materials to the Chinese embassies or consulates. The re-application must be on the condition that the purpose of the holders’ visit to China is unchanged.

Application of travel restrictions and special entry guidelines for foreign nationals

The move comes as China resumes its international air links after containing the domestic COVID-19 epidemic and is the biggest travel relaxation since China closed its international borders to most foreign nationals on March 28, 2020 as part of the anti-epidemic efforts.

Highly restricted entry guidelines

Since March 28, almost all inbound foreigner nationals (except for those holding diplomatic, service, or C visas) are required to re-apply for a new visa at Chinese embassies and consulates. Foreigners who needed to return to China for necessary economic, trade, scientific, or technological activities or due to emergency humanitarian purposes needed to get PU letters (approving entry/invitation letter) from the relevant Foreign Affairs Office (FAO) in China and apply for special visas at Chinese embassies or consulates. This incurred costs and took time as applicants and their employers had to make their case compelling during the application process for the special visas.

Relaxation of visa restrictions for select countries

In August, China relaxed its visa restrictions for foreign nationals from specific European countries and Asian countries. Eligible foreign nationals from the listed European and Asian countries were able to apply for a new visa “free of charge” at their local Chinese embassies or consulates as long as they held a valid China residence permit for work, family reunion, or personal matters.

Extension of the visa relaxations to all countries

The latest policy announcement applies to all foreign countries.

Further, “what is different from the visa policy relaxation for specific European and Asian countries, is that the September 23 announcement does not require holders of valid Chinese residence permits to apply for a visa at Chinese embassies or consulates. They are allowed to directly enter China with the existing permits,” Fuki Fu, Assistant Manager, Human Resources Administration and Payroll Services at Dezan Shira & AssociatesShanghai Office, explained.

Still, foreigners must strictly abide by the Chinese regulations on epidemic prevention and control. Other measures in the Announcement issued on March 26 and requirements for mandatory quarantine and nucleic acid testing (NAT) will continue to be implemented.

Inbound air travelers from countries listed on the MFA website – https://hr.cs.mfa.gov.cn/help_two/help-two/gj.html – still need to show a negative COVID-19 test result completed within three days before embarking on their trip to China.

“The September 23 announcement adjusted the previous March 28 announcement, but it doesn’t mean all foreigners can enter China. For example, foreigners holding a valid tourist visa, business visa, or a student visa issued before March 28 still can’t enter the Chinese border,” Fuki added. “We are also hoping that China can open its door to more foreigners with the improving situation of the epidemic.”

At all events, the Chinese government has promised that it will continue resuming people-to-people exchanges in a step-by-step and orderly manner while ensuring effective epidemic control.


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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 china@dezshira.com

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