Tuesday, June 24, 2008

China Visa - Facts and Fiction

(I am copying this previous article of mine in here for reference purposes only, exactly like it was published in thebeijinger on May 23rd, 2008)

An enormous amount of confusion currently exists throughout Beijing's expat community in regard to the Chinese government's apparent, but not officially announced, recent tightening of visa policies. The lack of an adequate response from government departments and spokespeople to the increasing demand for clarification of the gap between the existing regulations and commonly observed practices, has only added to the frustration felt by both business people and those hoping to travel to China during the Olympic period. As applications are being handled on a case-by-case basis, it’s almost impossible to make absolute and irrefutable statements about what’s going on, still, patterns have begun to emerge and below I outline what is known and what can be suspected to be the case in regard to the new visa situation.

What we know for sure:

Since mid-April, additional documents need to be provided to obtain L and F visas:

L (tourist) visa: Outbound and return flight booking and stamped (chopped) hotel reservation for the complete duration of stay. If staying at a relative's house, proof of kinship (marriage / birth certificate) and copies of his/her passport, visa, residence permit and police registration need to be provided.

F (business) visa: Flight booking, stamped (chopped) hotel reservation and original invitation letter from a relevant department of the Chinese government, company or institution, under the authorization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.

L and F visas are issued for a standard duration of 30 days, single entry, unless flight bookings (e.g. to Hong Kong) are provided to prove double entry is needed. To obtain a visa for a longer duration, a full travel itinerary needs to be provided. The visa application form has been changed to a much more detailed version.

Extensions of F visa in China are only possible until June 30th, 2008. Interns and short-term project workers are required to apply for a Z visa if an uninterrupted stay in China is required.

The possibility of visa applications in Hong Kong has been severely reduced. Although some 30 days L and F and some Z visas still seem to be issued, the Visa office in Hong Kong requests all foreign passport holders that do not have a Hong Kong residence permit to apply for visas in their respective home country. Expect longer queues and processing times of up to five days. Visa applications in other Asian countries seem to be just as difficult. A list of 33 countries (a list can be found here) whose nationals need to apply for visa in their respective home country has been published; however, restrictions also seem to apply to other nationals.

Z visa extensions, new Z visas and spouse visas have not been affected by the new policies. However, dependent visa that were previously also issued to non-married couples with children now require the provision of a marriage certificate.

Student (X) visas for the summer are only issued by a very limited number of universities and language schools.

The authorities are increasingly tracking down foreigners without valid visas and Registrations of Temporary Residence. Foreigners overstaying their visas are charged any where between RMB 500 to RMB 5,000/day. According to multiple reports, foreigners without a valid visa must expect to be awarded the red “has to leave China within ten days” stamp in their passport, which will make it nearly impossible to apply for a new visa.

Other rumors out there

It seems that staying at private accommodation is no longer an option for tourists from at least some countries as either a hotel booking or a proof of kinship need to be provided. Hotels have received stricter deadlines about the ID registration of their guests by the PSB and are more and more expected to demand full payment upfront to prevent fake bookings.

Concerning L and F visa, it seems extremely difficult to get a visa for any duration longer than 30 days. If 60 or 90 days visas are issued, most of them only allow a maximum duration of stay of 30 days in China.

Extensions of L visa have been reported to be subject to the provision of Olympic tickets a copy of your debit card or a bank account statement showing certain funds (reports range between USD 100 and 150/day of stay in China). It still remains unclear if tickets acquired through the China resident ticket round can be used.

There are still reports about successful applicants of 6 month and 1 year multiple entry F visas, however, none of them could be verified or tracked down to the reasons.

While researching this post, we attempted to get clarification from both the Exit and Entry Management Section of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the current state of visa policies. The lady on duty at the Exit and Entry Management Section of the Beijing PSB informed us that all questions related to the formalities of getting a visa during the Olympic period should be referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When we inquired about the likelihood of being able to extend visas from within China during the Olympics, we were informed that there was no definite policy and she could not provide any firm advice. We called the number for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supplied by the PSB and were forwarded on twice before being given the number 6596 3788. None of our repeated calls to this number were answered.


Anonymous said...

"If 60 or 90 days visas are issued, most of them only allow a maximum duration of stay of 30 days in China."

What does that mean? I have a 60 day multiple entry visa (for $150 through a travel agency in LA without having to show hotel reservation or bank account info), will that get knocked down to 30 days when I get to Beijing?

Coeurdelion said...

It depends - there's a field on you visa called "maximum duration of stay", if there's a 60 next to it there's no need to leave!

Generally, no changes are made to visas that have already been issued so you can trust your passport and what is in it.

Romain said...

Just to say I've been able to extend my L visa very easily without any invitation letter and without even giving any bank account statement, till the end of this month (before the Olympics start though).

Yuri - China Visa Service said...

How to get to China

Travelling outside your home country is definitely a great, but somewhat troublesome experience. Troubles come when you start to arrange all the necessary papers to obtain a visa. This especially applies to a country with strict and to a certain extent unique regulations, like China.

However, things are not as bad as they might seem at first glance. Nowadays, there is a good number of agencies and companies eager to offer you the China Visa Service of facilitating in visa process, to provide you with all the necessary and most accurate information.