By Anayat Durrani and Staff
Participants to our upcoming EB-5 and Global Immigration Expo in Shanghai, China on July 17-18 are urged to start their visa and travel arrangements early.
APPLICATION PROCESS: Travelers with a valid Chinese visa, such as those who had visas before March 28, 2020, can enter China without applying for a new visa. For those applying for a new visa, they might need to submit their application at least one or two months in advance.
To start the process, fill out an application by visiting the China Online Visa Application (COVA). Most visa applications for China also requires an invitation letter from a Chinese company, a passport that is valid for at least 6 months past your trip date, new passport photos, a copy of your driver’s license and travel arrangements. The required documents for a specific visa application, can be found by visiting the website of your local Chinese embassy or consulate.
SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT: Once your application has been filled out, make an appointment to submit your visa documents. Some Chinese consulates, like the one in Los Angeles, have just launched an online appointment system for scheduling your visit to submit your application and documents.
On your appointment, bring your required documents and passport to the consulate. The application fee is about $140 and there is an option for express or rush service for an additional fee as well. Visas are processed typically in about a week for normal service depending on the location of the consulate.
If you would like to use a visa service company to help you through the process, there are many options online of companies that will offer advice and help submit your visa documents for you.
COVID REQUIREMENTS: China dropped its mandatory quarantine on arrival on Jan. 8, and now requires international travelers to show proof of a negative antigen self-test taken 48 hours before boarding, rather than a PCR test. Proof of vaccination is not required.
“China has reopened its border and lifted almost all the travel restrictions imposed during the zero-COVID period,” says Qian Zhou, editor of Asia Briefing based in Shanghai, which provides business and investment research, advisory and opinion on foreign investment in the Asian region.
For three years, China enforced strict travel restrictions and closed off borders to business travelers, tourists and family members of Chinese nationals. The country’s “zero Covid” policy sought to eradicate the coronavirus through lengthy lockdowns and mass testing. However, on March 15, China began issuing all categories of visas, including those for tourism.
“China has been constantly relaxing the travel restrictions after the shift from zero-COVID to ‘living with COVID,’” says Zhou.
144-HOUR VISA-FREE TRANSIT POLICY: If you do not have enough time to apply for a Chinese visa, another option might be China’s 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit Policy. This means you can visit the Shanghai area for 6 days without a visa. Business activities are permitted under the 144-hour visa.
To be eligible you will need to have a passport that is valid for more than three months from the arrival date and a connecting ticket that shows you will depart China within 144 hours and be in transit to a third country. That third country cannot be the country you initially departed from in your travels. You also cannot have any stopovers within Chinese mainland before arrival or after departure at the port of entry. Travelers must stay within the allowed cities and regions.
Only passport holders from one of 53 countries, including the United States, are eligible for the 144-hour visa-free transit policy. Travelers will need to get a temporary entry permit at their port of transit to enter China, per the National Immigration Administration of China. Travelers can contact China National Immigration Administration’s 24-hour hotline to be connected to the Shanghai border inspection authority at 0086 (+86) 21 12367.
Then you will need to inform the airline you are traveling with that you plan to use the visa exemption policy. They will inform the Border Inspection Authority at your port of entry in China. Once you arrive in China, you will be issued a temporary entry permit.
EXPEDITED SERVICES: Starting May 15, China will go back to using fast-lane services that were available pre-pandemic to expedite border inspection.
“China reintroduced fast-lane services for various types of travelers entering and leaving the Chinese mainland to speed up border inspection and facilitate travel between regions,” says Zhou. “Travelers can expect a more convenient travelling process going forward.”
Eligible travelers include foreign passport holders and those with residence permits in China, as well as Chinese citizens with passports or special permits, according to the National Immigration Administration.
** This article is for educational purposes only. Please contact the Chinese consulate for your individual visa needs.
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