China to resume issuing
passports and visas
from January 2023

After almost three years of closure, China is set to relax some of its border control measures in January 2023 after abandoning its strict ‘zero-Covid’ policy.

Starting 8 January 2023, the government will remove several immigration restrictions which were implemented as part of the country’s anti-virus controls. China stopped issuing visas to foreign nationals and passports to its own citizens at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Following November’s protests against China’s strict lockdowns, there has been a sudden lifting of many of China’s COVID-19 restrictions. In line with the downgrading of these restrictions, the government now plans to gradually resume admitting foreign visitors and allow its citizens to travel abroad again. The key changes set to be implemented by the end of the week are as follows.

Chinese outbound travellers

The measures set to be introduced from 8 January include:

  • Resuming passport issuance for Chinese mainland residents for the purposes of tourism and visits abroad.
  • Resuming the processing of endorsements for Chinese mainland residents to visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for tourism and business purposes.

The changes will allow more flexibility for Chinese citizens wishing to travel overseas. However, travellers should be aware that some countries, including the US and Japan, have recently implemented COVID-19 testing requirements for visitors from China. This is in response to the high rate of virus infections still being recorded in China.

Foreign nationals entering China

From 8 January, China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA) will resume some normal visa services. The upcoming changes include:

  • Resuming the acceptance and examination of foreign nationals’ applications for the extension, renewal and re-issuance of ordinary visas, the issuance, renewal, and re-issuance of stay permits, and the issuance, extension, renewal, and re-issuance of residence permits. Expedited procedures may be applied for urgent cases.
  • Resuming the issuance port visas, the implementation of the 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, and the issuance of temporary entry permits.
  • Resume the issuing of exit and entry permits for foreign nationals intending to enter China.

At present, the government has given no indication when they might begin issuing visas to first-time applicants, or when tourist travel from abroad might resume.

COVID-19 testing requirements

Also effective 8 January 2023, the government of China will lift COVID-19-related restrictions and quarantine requirements for all travellers entering the country.

China will therefore cancel nucleic acid tests for international arrivals from this date. However, inbound travellers are advised to take a PCR test within 48 hours before their departure. Those with a positive test result are advised to postpone their travels until they test negative.

Travellers will also no longer be required to apply for a health code from Chinese diplomatic and consular missions. Instead, travellers will be required to declare their health status on the customs card.

Those with an abnormal health status declaration or fever symptoms will receive an antigen test at customs. They will be advised to self-isolate at home until recovery or be treated in hospital, depending on their health conditions.

Speak to a global immigration advisor

Due to the constantly changing nature of the situation, rules are subject to change at short notice and therefore travellers are advised to check the current guidance before travelling.

The Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters is on hand to provide advice and guidance to those seeking to apply for a visa to enter China. To find out how we can help, please contact us today.

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