China’s National Immigration Administration has issued 5 measures that will make it significantly easier for foreign nationals to enter the country for business, education and tourism.
The unexpected move, which it is hoped will boost the economy and restore people-to-people exchanges, signals that the Party leadership is making good on its pledge to “deepen reform and opening” in the post-pandemic era.
Foreigners well acquainted with China’s sometimes lengthy and anachronistic bureaucratic processes will be pleased to hear that the procedure for foreign nationals to apply, extend, replace or re-issue visas will be streamlined. The new rules also allow visa-free transit for travellers staying less than 24 hours, exempting them from border inspections at 9 major international airports.
On top of this, foreign nationals with an urgent need to travel to China for business, family, or personal reasons can obtain a visa on arrival. These on-arrival visas (also called “port visas”) were previously only available to business travellers when they were first introduced in August 2023.
This comes just two weeks after Chinese authorities removed the requirement for US travellers to provide hotel bookings, proof of return flights, or an itinerary as part of the visa application process. Some China watchers speculate that the rapid succession of changes to visa requirements indicates that the Party leadership is now extremely concerned about the country’s economic performance.
Hu Xijin, a prominent “wolf warrior” journalist and former editor-in-chief of the nationalist paper The Global Times, hailed the new measures on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform. Referring to “shadows on the psyche”, he also warned his fellow citizens that the time has come to put aside any anti-foreigner sentiment.
“We should all keep up with the country’s pace and promptly clear away the shadows left by the pandemic on our psychology”, Hu wrote. “The number of foreigners in various Chinese cities will increase rapidly, and changes in the market will naturally align with the grand strategy of opening up to the outside world.”