China Is Finally Issuing Visas to Foreign Visitors Again
Following a three-year closure, China has both opened its borders and begun issuing travel visas
I’ll spare you the part where I tell you how badly China was impacted by COVID-19. What I will tell you, though — because it’s my job to do so — is that up until very recently, China had enforced some of the strictest and longest-lasting travel-related restrictions in the world. As Ben Schlappig of One Mile at a Time noted, it seemed improbable that “easy” travel to China would never be a thing again.
But after years of peddling a zero-COVID strategy, everyone was shocked at the close of 2022 when China suddenly decided to drop all restrictions — the travel quarantine requirement included. But while Chinese nationals were allowed to travel freely again, because the country had not resumed the issuance of visas to foreign visitors, no one could actually travel to China.
As of March 15, that’s no longer the case. Per AP News, China has officially begun issuing all types of travel visas again in an effort to revive tourism. Further, visa-free entry will also resume for those who had no visa requirement prior to the pandemic, Hainan island residents among them.
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It’s not clear at this time whether visitors will be made to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter, but Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin did say that China had “optimized measures for remote testing of people coming to China from relevant countries,” and would now allow pre-boarding antigen testing as opposed to nucleic acid testing.
“China will continue to make better arrangements for the safe, healthy and orderly movement of Chinese and foreign personnel on the basis of scientific assessments and in light of the situation,” Wang said. “We also hope that all parties will join China in creating favorable conditions for cross-border exchanges.”
That said, officials are skeptical. “Tourist industry insiders do not expect a massive influx of visitors in the short run or significant boost to the economy,” Joe Cash and Sophie Yu wrote in Reuters. “In 2019, international tourism receipts accounted for just 0.9% of China’s gross domestic product.”
It doesn’t bode well, either, that on March 10 the U.S. State Department issued an advisory urging American citizens to reconsider travel to China, including Hong Kong and Macao, citing to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws” and the risk of wrongful detention.
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