Travel to China: An Evolving Process

June 17, 2022

You may be aware of reports that China is loosening entry restrictions for certain visa holders. At the same time, you may also be reading about continuing COVID-19 restrictions in Beijing and Shanghai.  Needless to say, it’s a confusing time when it comes to entry to China, so let’s walk through the most recent developments and China’s governmental policy changes.

Changes to China’s Entry Restrictions

The biggest development has been China’s termination of the PU letter requirement for several classes of visas. The PU letter is a formal government-issued document required by foreign nationals to begin the process of applying for a China visa. The PU letter requirement has been eliminated for the following classes of visa:

  • Z visa: Issued to those who intend to work in China.
  • S1/S2 visa: Issued to the spouse, parents, children under the age of 18, and parents of the spouse of the holder of a Z visa, or work category residence permit.
  • Q1/Q2 visa: Issued to foreign family members of Chinese citizens, or foreign family members of foreigners with permanent residence status in China. Note: “family members” here refers to spouses, parents, parents-in-law, children, spouses of children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.

Foreigners applying for Z visas will still typically need to show they are heading to China for COVID-19 control/prevention-related matters, or are foreigners going to China for the resumption of an existing business enterprise, or traveling for business of a critical, urgent, and/or important nature to China.

In addition, China is also issuing visas to some international students. So, if you are a student looking to study for a semester or year abroad in China, speak with the study abroad coordinator at your educational institution to check your eligibility.

What Has Not Changed

Some visa classes still require a PU letter, including:

  • M/F visa: Issued to those who intend to go to China for commercial and technology activities.
  • R-Visa: Issued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China.

Foreign nationals may travel to China if they hold a valid visa in one of the categories above, issued after March 28, 2020 (or after November 3, 2020 for certain countries, including the United Kingdom). People with valid residence permits for work, family reunions, or personal matters can also travel to China.

Unfortunately for would-be leisure travelers, China remains closed to tourists, with the government not expected to begin issuing tourist visas before 2023 at the earliest.

It is important to note that entry policy and visa requirements are frequently changing, so prospective visa applicants should frequently check to see if adjustments have been made.

Other Factors to Consider When Traveling to China

Even once a traveler obtains a valid entry document, entry into China can still be challenging. Currently, travel to China can only be conducted on aircraft flying directly to China on pre-approved routes, if there are direct flights between the traveler’s  country of departure and China. For individuals departing from countries without a direct flight to China, only itineraries with one stop before reaching China will be accepted.

Not surprisingly, anyone traveling to China must demonstrate they are COVID-free. In addition to a valid visa or residence permit, all travelers to China must also have proof of a negative COVID PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before departure, and a second PCR test taken less than 24 hours before departure. Even with the negative tests, upon arriving in China, travelers will still need to quarantine for a period of 10-14 days at an approved facility, and undergo a rigorous COVID testing protocol while in quarantine. A further seven days of quarantine at home, or the location you will be staying, is typically required once you are released from the quarantine facility.

China remains a top international business and leisure travel destination. While China is still closed to international tourism, some business and other forms of travel is possible. As shown above though, the process can be subject to frequent changes. CIBT and Newland Chase are here to assist would-be travelers to China. We maintain up-to-date information on current entry requirements, and can assist you in the process of obtaining visas and other travel documents. If China is a destination for you, we’re here to help! Contact your Client Services Manager today. Don’t have one? Contact us.

This immigration update is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal or scenario-specific advice. Furthermore, it is important to note that immigration announcements are subject to sudden and unexpected changes. Readers are encouraged to reach out to Newland Chase for any case- or company-specific assessments.