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China to start issuing all visa types for foreign travelers

March 14, 2023

It marks the latest step in China reopening its borders for foreigners after three years of COVID restrictions. Visa-free entry will be resumed for foreigners from Hong Kong and Macao, and ASEAN nations.

Tourists at an immigration checkpoint in Guangdong province.
Restrictions will also be lifted for Hainan island and cruise ships at Shanghai.Image: HPIC/dpa/picture alliance

The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday that it will begin reissuing all types of visas to foreigners from March 15.

The easing of travel restrictions marks another significant step in reopening China to the outside world.

Beijing ended its zero-COVID policy last December, and began opening borders the next month.

What are China's new travel rules for foreigners?

Areas in China that required no visas prior to the pandemic will revert to visa-free entry, the ministry said.

Visa-free entry will be resumed for foreigners from Hong Kong and Macao, and countries within the ASEAN group.

It also said Beijing will lift restrictions for various locations, such as Hainan island cruise ships passing through Shanghai ports.

Visas issued before March 28, 2020, that are still valid will also allow entry to China.

China also added another 40 countries to its list for which group tours are allowed, but that still excludes Japan, South Korea, Australia and the US.

End to zero-COVID rules

New Premier Li Qiang said on Monday that China took less than two months to achieve a "smooth transition" in its response to COVID-19 and that the country's strategies and measures had been completely correct.

Other nations began reopening their borders earlier, but China only relaxed its strict COVID strategy after protests broke out in many parts of the country.

China’s zero-Covid strategy

The relaxing of containment measures led to a sudden rise in COVID cases. Beijing stopped quarantine requirements for visitors, but visa restrictions were still kept in place.

It also then resumed issuing Chinese passports for "tourism" or "overseas visits of friends."

According to figures from the UN's World Tourism Organization, China had 65.7 million international travelers in 2019, before the pandemic. That figure had dropped to 8 million the following year.

tg/rt (AFP, Reuters)