China is fully reopening to visitors from abroad, including tourists, after three years of severe border restrictions. In a bid to ease its Covid restrictions, the country is now adjusting its visa and entry policies. A notice released on March 14 said that visa services in China would resume on March 15. As per the notice, these changes have taken effect as of 12 am on March 15, Beijing time.
The move comes after China suddenly scrapped its Covid restrictions in November and ended mandatory quarantine for inbound travellers in January. Before that, the country had practised a zero-Covid policy with strict screening measures in place.
Here are the changes in the visa policy:
1. Visas issued before 28 March 2020 will resume function, as long as they are still within their period of validity.
2. Foreigners will now be able to apply for visas to China, as visa-issuing authorities abroad will resume reviewing and issuing applications.
3. Port visas will also be issued as per laws and regulations.
4. Visa-free entry to Hainan province; to Shanghai for cruises; to Guangdong province for foreigners from Hong Kong and Macao; and to Guilin for ASEAN tourist groups will resume.
The frequency of passenger flights had dropped dramatically during that time, and tourist visas were suspended altogether as part of the blanket ban on visas. In the past few months, China has resuscitated various facilities such as professional visas for foreign nationals. Now, the country has begun opening outbound group travel in phases by allowing the sale of group tours and package deals. The second phase of this programme, with 40 new countries added to the list of outbound travel destinations, will also roll out from today as well.
For inbound travellers, there is no update on Covid-specific measures yet. According to The Times of India report, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China has allowed pre-boarding antigen testing in a bid to “optimise measures for remote testing of people coming to China from relevant countries.”
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