After three years of restrictions, China is relaunching visa issuance
China, the first country affected by what was then a mysterious virus, had brutally closed in March 2020 its borders to all visa holders, including residence permit holders, for fear of a new wave of contamination from abroad. At the height of the epidemicmany expatriates had thus found themselves unable to return after their departure from China, while the number of international flights had been drastically reduced by the Chinese authorities.
Relaxations had, however, been granted with the gradual resumption of business visas or for family reunion. But trade between China and abroad remained severely limited for nearly three years, by the obligation of quarantine upon arrival on Chinese territory for all travelers. This emblematic measure of “zero Covid” health policy of Beijing was lifted in January, thanks to a gradual return to normal life in China. The suspension since 2020 of tourist visas remained the last vestige of this health policy.
Resumption of tourism
From Wednesday, China will resume issuing “all types of visas” for foreign nationals, according to a notice issued by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Chinese embassies in the United States and France have posted similar notices online.
Visas issued before the borders closed on March 28, 2020 and which have not yet expired regain their validity to travel to China, the documents state. China will also restore the possibilities of certain visa-free entries, including those to the tourist island of Hainan (south) or those allowed to cruise passengers calling at Shanghai.
The announcement comes a day after the close of an important annual session of China’s parliament, which reappoints President Xi Jinping for a new five-year term – the third – at the head of the country and appointed a new Prime Minister.
Li Qiang warned on Monday that it would be difficult for his country to meet its growth target “of around 5%” this year, already one of the lowest in decades. Before closing to the rest of the world, China welcomed some 65.7 million international visitors in 2019, according to data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Since January, Chinese nationals can once again leave their country for tourism. During the epidemic, only travel for compelling reasons was authorized while the Chinese authorities had suspended the issuance of passports.