The NIA will resume the acceptance and examination of foreigners’ applications for the extension, renewal, and re-issuance of ordinary visas, the issuance, renewal, and re-issuance of stay permits,
Following the downgrade of COVID-19 to a Class B infectious disease and the removal of centralized quarantine for inbound travelers, China announced that it will optimize immigration administration policies and measures starting from January 8, 2023. In particular, China will resume the issuance of passports for Chinese mainland residents, ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners, as well as tourist visa exemption for short-term travelers.
On December 27, 2022, one day after the National Health Commission (NHC) announced that China will no longer conduct nucleic acid tests and centralized quarantine for all inbound travelers starting from January 8, 2023, China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA) released an announcement to optimize immigration administration for Chinese mainland residents and foreigners
The announcement, titled the Announcement of the Optimized Policies and Measures for Immigration Administration after the Downgrade of COVID-19 Management with Measures Against Class B Infectious Diseases (the NIA Announcement), was released “to efficiently coordinate pandemic prevention and control with economic and social development, to actively adapt to the new situation and requirements in the new phase of COVID-19 prevention and control […] and to protect and promote personnel exchange and communication between China and the rest of the world”, according to the official explanation of the NIA.
To be more specific, the following immigration policies and measures will be introduced, starting from January 8, 2023:
- Resuming passport issuance for Chinese mainland residents. The NIA will resume the acceptance and examination of Chinese citizens’ applications for ordinary passports for the purposes of tourism and visits abroad; resume the processing of endorsements for Chinese mainland residents to visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for tourism and business purposes.
- Resuming normal visa services for foreigners. The NIA will resume the acceptance and examination of foreigners’ 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. In case of urgent needs, expedited procedures may be applied.
- Resuming issuance of port visa and tourist visa exemption. The NIA will resume the issuance of port visas, the implementation of the 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, and the issuance of temporary entry permits in accordance with the law.
- Resuming exit-&-entry permit. The NIA will resume the issuance of exit-&-entry permits for the People’s Republic of China, and the issuance of exit-&-entry permits for the border control area.
- Resuming land ports/channels. The NIA will gradually resume the passenger clearance of land ports/channels; resume in an orderly manner the exit and entry of passengers and border residents through land ports and corridors for the border residents. The corridors for border residents shall be resumed in accordance with relevant regulations and immigration inspection shall be implemented according to law.
- Resuming the fast channels in ports adjacent to the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions. Holders of the Hong Kong and Macao Travel Permit for Mainland Residents, the Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents, and other such documents may go through the fast channels for immigration inspection.
- Resuming water ports. The NIA will gradually resume passenger clearance at water ports; allow the liner passengers to exit and enter through water ports that meet relevant requirements; resume the exit and entry of international cruise passengers at selected ports; issue the temporary entry permit for foreign crew members who meet entry requirements; cancel the previous regulation of “restricting personnel from embarking on vessels engaged in international voyages, restricting crew members of these vessels from disembarking, and restricting these vessels from berthing alongside other vessels”.
- Continuing certain facilitation measures. Continue the implementation of the facilitation measures including “green passages” at airports for key cargo flights, “fast channels” at land ports and immigration inspection stations for vehicles carrying key supplies, online self-application of “immigration inspection boarding code” used at water ports, and more.
How to understand the changes?
The release of the NIA’s optimized immigration policies and measures means that China will fully reopen to the rest of the world, almost three years after China closed its border to foreign visitors on March 28, 2020.
With China resuming normal visas, port visas, and the 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, foreign nationals can travel to China much more conveniently. Foreign investors who have had difficulties maintaining control over their China subsidiaries can now rebuild closer relationships with their China managers and employees. Those who want to enter the China market can now take steps to progress their business plans on the ground. And those who simply want to travel to China for tourism or family visits can now check for flight tickets.
Besides, with Chinese residents being able to apply for ordinary passports for the purposes of tourism and visiting friends abroad, outbound tourism will officially come back. Although there might not be a large number of Chinese traveling abroad in the short term as the population is battling the first wave of the COVID-19 case surge, it won’t be very long before the multi-billion dollar travel business comes back. Retail businesses and businesses that provide tourist services should be ready for an increase in Chinese tourists.
As China transitions from its zero-COVID policy to a less restricted business and living environment, the government is hoping to return to the high-growth environment that China fostered before the pandemic, and also briefly during the post-pandemic recovery in 2021. According to the Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC), China will be more focused on economic growth in 2023 than ever, with expected policies to expand domestic consumption, attract and utilize foreign capital, stabilize the property market, and revamp the tech sector.
We expect various government departments to release policies to stimulate growth in their respective fields. More concrete economic policy will be formulated in the coming months and will most likely be announced during the 2023 Two Sessions, which is normally held at the beginning of March.