China will resume issuing all types of visas for foreigners, including the tourism visa, port visa, and multiple visa-exemption policies starting from March 15, 2023. It is the latest in a series of moves to reopen its border. Inbound travelers are advised to consult with their local China embassies or consulates for more detailed requirements and procedures.
On March 13 and 14, multiple Chinese embassies released the Notice on Further Adjustment of Visa and Entry Policies for Foreigners to China, which spell out multiple important relaxations regarding visa issuance and entry of foreigners into China.
China visa resumption: What are the policy adjustments?
The adjustments include:
- Valid multi-year multiple entry visas issued before March 28, 2020 by the Chinese visa authorities abroad shall resume function.
- Foreigners may apply for all types of visas (including those for tourism and medical treatment).
- Port visas shall once again be issued in line with the relevant laws and regulations.
- The visa-exemption policy for Hainan, visa-exemption cruise policy for Shanghai, visa-exemption policy for foreigners to visit Guangdong from Hong Kong and Macao, and visa-exemption policy for ASEAN tour groups to Guilin and Guangxi shall resume operation.
These adjustments to China's visa issuance policy will be implemented as of 0:00 Beijing Time on March 15, 2023.
How to understand these adjustments?
The visa relaxation is China's most recent effort to reopen its border.
Under its zero-COVID policy, China had imposed strict travel restrictions on international arrivals starting March 28, 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19 cases from abroad. The restrictions were in turn loosened and tightened in response to the changing situation of the pandemic worldwide. In addition to the reduced frequency of international passenger flights, China's restrictions include limited visa availability (including a suspension of tourist visas) and strict COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements before and after arrival in China.
Then in December 2022, China decided to shift from “zero-COVID” to “living with COVID”.
Following the downgrade of COVID-19 to a Class B infectious disease and the removal of centralized quarantine for inbound travelers, China announced that it would optimize immigration administration policies and measures starting from January 8, 2023. In particular, China resumed the issuance of passports for Chinese mainland residents, ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners, as well as tourist visa exemption for short-term travelers.
After that, China reopened visa applications for most types of visas, as per announcements posted by some Chinese embassies. However, visa applications for tourism and medical treatment to China had still been on hold.
Now, with the latest policy adjustment, the restrictions on visa application for tourism and medical treatment will finally be removed. Foreigners will be able to travel to China more conveniently and for all kinds of purposes.
At the time of writing this article, not all Chinese embassies have published the Notice. Those that have released the Notice include but are not limited to the Chinese embassies in the Bahamas, Canada, Czech Republic, Dubai, France, Kuwait, Luxemburg, Malta, New Zealand, Panama, Thailand, the US, and the United Arabic Emirates (the UAE). Other embassies are expected to release the Notice soon.
Foreigners who plan to travel to China in the near future are suggested to consult with their local embassies or consulates for more information. Meanwhile, more details regarding the Chinese visa application process in 2023 can be found in our China Briefing article: 2023 Chinese Visa Application Guidelines.