- Effective from August 24, 2022, foreigners who hold a valid APEC card to conduct business in China and foreign students with a valid residence permit for study purposes can enter China without applying for a new visa, as per the announcement of the Chinese embassies in various countries. In addition, China will also resume accepting Study X1-Visa applications from foreigners applying to study in China for more than 180 days. Please consult the respective embassy website of Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Qatar, Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Montenegro, Malta, Algeria, South Africa, Rwanda, Liberia, Zambia, Tanzania, Mexico, Canada, Cuba, Brazil for further clarification. The Chinese embassy in India has also updated the “Application Procedures and Material Requirements of China Visa”, to be implemented starting August 24, 2022.
- The Chinese embassy in India has updated the “Application Procedures and Material Requirements of China Visa”, to be implemented starting August 24, 2022.
- On July 27, 2022, the Chinese Embassy in Germany announced on its website (link in German) that applicants in Germany who intend to return to China to work (in fields such as business and trade, education, science and technology, sports and culture, among others) in China can apply for a business M-visa or academic exchange F-visa without submitting the previously required Invitation Letter (PU) issued by relevant Chinese authorities.
- As of July 4, 2022, travelers from the Netherlands who intend to go to China to resume work and production no longer need a PU Letter when applying for a business M-visa and visitor F-visa, as per the announcement of the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands.
Austria, Portugal, Cyprus, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Spain, Ireland, and Belgium are also officially part of the list of countries exempted from the PU letter requirement when applying for a work Z-visa, business M-visa, and visitor F-visas.
- As of July 1, 2022, a PU Letter will no longer be required to apply for a Chinese work Z-visa, business M-visa, and visitors F-visa, as per the announcement of the Chinese Embassies in Italy, France, the UK, and Singapore.
- As of June 15, 2022, Chinese Embassies in the following countries and regions have announced relatively simplified visa application procedures: Austria, Croatia, Czech, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, South Korea, and the United States. According to these announcements, PU Letter is no longer required for Z/S/Q visa applications. Please refer to the respective Embassy for more detailed information.
- On June 13, 2022, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States released a Notice with new information about the scope and procedure of visa acceptance, stating that the PU letter is no longer required for the application for China Z-visa. Foreigners applying for business/M-visa and F-visa are still required to present an Invitation Letter. Click here to read the full Notice for further details.
- On June 9, 2022, the Chinese Embassy in Singapore released a Notice exempting Z-visa applicants from the PU Letter requirement. Foreigners applying for business/M-visa and F-visa are still required to present an Invitation Letter. Click here to read the full Notice for further details.
- On June 9, 2022, the Consular Department of the Commissioner’s Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong released a statement announcing that the PU letter is no longer required for the application of multiple types of China visas. Click here to jump to the section for more details.
According to various sources, effective June 6, 2022, the following categories of foreign travelers will no longer be required to apply for a PU Letter, and they will be able to apply for a Chinese work visa/Z-visa to the relevant Chinese authorities abroad by presenting their Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit or proof of family relationship:
- Foreigners who have been approved by the competent authorities to work in China and hold a valid Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit.
- Foreign dependents whose spouse has been approved to work in China (including those who are already in the country), and their children under the age of 18 years.
The notice has been confirmed by the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office upon our enquiry. We believe that such policy changes will soon be extended to other provinces as well, based on reasonable assumptions. Below are some takeaways from the above-mentioned notice, which shall serve as a general reference until the official interpretation is revealed:
- Work/Z-visa, private affairs/S-visa, reunion/Q-visa application types are exempt from submitting a PU Invitation Letter.
- Foreign inbound travelers coming to China for other reasons, such as business/M-visa, exchange visit/F-visa application, still need to apply for a PU Invitation Letter.
- There is currently no news about the opening of visa applications for visa types such as tourism or study.
Moreover, on June 9, 2022, the Consular Department of the Commissioner’s Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong released a statement announcing that the PU letter is no longer required for the application of multiple types of China visas. To be more detailed:
- Foreigners who intend to go to work in mainland China can apply for a Z-visa presenting the required materials, which no longer include the submission of an Invitation Letter (PU or TE). However, in principle, they must submit full-process vaccination certificates of the vaccine licensed or approved for emergency use by China or the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Foreigners who intend to go to the Chinese mainland for short-term resumption of work and production activities, after completing a full-process COVID-19 vaccination using vaccines produced in China, can apply for an M-visa or F-visa by submitting the routine documents without the invitation letter. If they instead received other vaccines licensed or approved for emergency use by WHO, in addition to the routine documents, they will need to present an additional Invitation Letter (PU or TE) issued by relevant government departments of their final destinations in China.
- Family members (including spouses, parents, children under the age of 18, parents-in-law, and adult children and their spouses who have the urgency to return to Mainland China) of foreigners who return to Mainland China to resume work and production, can apply for the corresponding visas with the routine documents, without providing invitation letters (PU or TE). In principle, the full-process vaccination certificates of the vaccine licensed or approved for emergency use by China or WHO shall be provided.
Moreover, the notice also expands the scope of applicants eligible for applying for a visa out of humanitarian needs :
- In addition to visiting an immediate family member in China who is in critical medical condition and in need of care, or arranging funeral matters of an immediate family member in China, foreign family members (including spouses, parents, spouse’s parents, children, and their spouses, brothers and sisters, grandparents, and grandchildren) of Chinese citizens or foreign nationals with permanent residence status in the mainland of China can apply for visas for reunion or family visit (i.e., Q2-visa or S2-visa). The above applicants should submit routine documents, and the full-process vaccination certificates of the vaccine licensed or approved for emergency use by China or WHO shall be provided.
To be cautious, we still encourage you to confirm with your local embassy or consulate to know whether you are subject to this policy update and eligible for PU Letter exemption, especially those whose work permit is valid while the residence permit has expired.
What is a PU Letter?
The PU Letter for China (also known as an Invitation Letter) is a government-issued document that foreigners must receive before applying for several types of visas, such as M-visa or Q1/Q2-visas. Until the June 2022 provision, it was a must-have document also for Z-visa. The PU Letter is issued by the Provincial Foreign Affairs Office where the Chinese company that is inviting the applicant is located, and it is the responsibility of the company itself to apply for it through the respective local government administration. For a more detailed explanation of this process, consult our guide on how to apply for a PU Letter.
Before the Chinese government shortened the visa application, the PU Letter was a standardized component of the application process – it was reintroduced during the onset of the epidemic to allow for more stringent border restrictions. Other special visa application procedures also include TE or Invitation Verification Notice (similar to the PU Letter). F-business visa applicants, for instance, must present a similar Invitation Letter detailing the urgency of their China travel, as stated since the first travel ban, effective on March 28, 2020.
This is not the first time that the PU Letter has been deferred for certain groups of travelers since the beginning of the pandemic. The Chinese government had previously announced that, in some cases, an Invitation Letter would be waived for people who had been inoculated with Chinese COVID-19 vaccines and who could provide an official certificate. However, foreign applicants still had to be assessed on an individual basis, since the official conditions for eligibility had simply been classified as “essential business activity in numerous industries,” which was a broad definition.
The impact of PU Letters on China’s immigration process
Since March 2020, Chinese authorities have used the PU letter as a tool to curb the spread of COVID-19 by rigorously limiting the number of foreigners allowed into the country. Only those foreigners who are regarded by Chinese authorities to play an essential part in the business of the inviting firm in China and who need to come to China immediately will be granted the PU Letter, according to Chinese authorities.
Currently, no details on the criterion for PU Letter issuance have been made public, and local authorities evaluate each application on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a variety of factors, such as the inviting company’s qualifications, the applicant’s role and responsibilities within the company, the nature of the applicant’s work, and the impact on the business in the absence of the foreign employee.
It has long been a problem for the inviting firms to obtain a PU Letter for foreign nationals and their accompanying family members, and the application time can take up to 2-3 months for the employees, and 2-4 months for their dependents. Furthermore, certain firms are not regarded as eligible for requesting PU Letter applications by their local authorities, and we have observed a number of rejections between 2020 and 2022.
The PU Letter requirement has significantly lengthened the immigration procedure for expats who need to relocate to China, which may now take up to 6-8 months from the start of the process to the final onboarding date.
For an in-depth overview of all the current restrictions in place for foreign inbound travelers to China, refer to our article on how to enter China as a foreigner during COVID-19.
How we can help
As a professional business services provider, we can provide you with the necessary support to understand the most updated policies and status in a timely manner. Should you have requests, please contact us without hesitation. you are welcome to email us at China@dezshira.com
(This article was first published on June 5, 2022, and was last updated on July 27, 2022.)
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, 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.