China’s National Immigration Administration implemented new measures to allow foreigners to apply for M, F, Q, and S visas at the port of entry.
The new policy, which took effect January 11, 2024, also allows foreigners to apply for multiple-entry visas after entering China.
Since the beginning of 2023, China has started implementing a series of traveler-friendly changes to its visa policies. For example, the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General in the United States started providing walk-in visa application services from October 23, 2023, and applicants are no longer required to make online appointments beforehand.
And, at the beginning of this year, China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA) announced that, effective from January 11, 2024, NIA will implement the following five measures to facilitate foreigners’ visits to China.
On August 3, 2023, China’s Ministry of Public Security announced the implementation of 26 measures to provide support to guarantee high-quality development (26 Measures). Notably, if a foreigner urgently needs to travel to China to engage in business or investment activities, exchange activities (e.g., academic exchanges), visit family, or take part in a private matter and other non-diplomatic and non-official activities, and they are unable to obtain a visa before entering China, the foreigner may now apply for a port visa to enter China by providing an invitation letter and other supporting documents to port visa authorities. (Under previous procedures, registration materials were also required). In addition, foreigners may now apply for multiple-entry business “M” visas valid for three years at the port of entry.
(Note: For more details related to the 26 Measures, see XL Law’s Insights article from September 19, 2023.)
In addition to the changes made to M visa procedures as a result of the 26 measures, the new policy now also simplifies procedures for foreigners who intend to apply for F visas (issued for exchange activities), Q visas (issued for family visits), and S visas (issued for private matters).
The new policy also simplifies immigration procedures for transit passengers. Foreigners may now transit through Beijing Capital Airport, Beijing Daxing Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport, Xiamen Gaoqi Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, Shenzhen Bao'an Airport, Chengdu Tianfu Airport, and Xi'an Xianyang Airport for up to 24 hours without undergoing immigration procedures. Specifically, foreigners with international connecting flights within 24 hours may transit through any of above nine airports to another country or region without obtaining a Chinese visa or going through immigration.
Extending and Reissuing Visas; Applying for New Visas
Foreigners who stay in China for a short-term visits for the purpose of business activities, exchanges activities, investment, family visits, tourism, private matters and other non-diplomatic and non-official activities may go to the nearest exit and entry administration to apply for extensions or reissuance of their visas. Foreigners may also apply for new visas in certain categories (i.e., F, J2, M, Q2, R, S2, and X2 visas, should they find that their reason for being in China has changed. This policy facilitates visa matters for foreigners with M, F, Q, S, and L visas.
Foreigners who need to enter and exit the country multiple times may now apply for multiple-entry visas after entering China. While the 26 Measures had made this change for M visas, the new policy makes this possible for foreigners on any type of visa.
If foreigners’ accommodation registration records and their PRC entities’ business licenses can be accessed by visa authority, foreigners do not need to provide paper documentation for verification when applying for visas and permits. For foreigners applying for Q2 visas (issued for short-term family visits), it is now permissible to submit the relationship statement issued by the inviter as proof of the relationship.
Implications for U.S. Higher Education Institutions
China’s travel-friendly changes to its visa policies demonstrate its intent to boost and facilitate cross-border travel. U.S. higher education institutions with activities in China may decide to have their personnel enter China through port visas to save processing time; however, this route should only be used under extremely urgent circumstances, and business and other types of visas should still be obtained in advance where possible. U.S. higher education personnel may also wish to apply for multiple-entry visas after entering China, if they have previously been unable to obtain a multiple-entry visa and have a need for one. Finally, U.S. higher education faculty who may already have valid L (tourist) or M (business) visas may now take advantage of the simplified procedures to apply for new visas in the above-mentioned categories (e.g., F (exchange activities) or R (highly skilled professionals) visas), as needed.