China eases expat visa applications with new online services

Published:  15 Mar at 6 PM
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Bejing’s traditionally inconvenient visa processing system has been changed for the better via the introduction of shorter approval times and online applications.

Although the online visa application service now provided by China’s Public Security website is, at present, only in Chinese, the new system is being welcomed by expats living and working in the formerly closed society. Appointments can be booked online, and a helpful list of required documents is provided. Once printed out and filled in, applicants can simply take the documents to the PSB’s Exit-Entry Bureau offices.

Another welcome change means that foreigners can now apply for a visa by using the new website before they leave their home country, picking up the actual document on their arrival in Beijing. The process saves weeks of waiting for a visa to be approved and issued from their local Chinese Embassy before leaving for China. However, this method of obtaining a visa only applies to those needing emergency travel, and includes the rule that an invitation from a Chinese national must be received. Tourists will still have to plan their trips well in advance and use the old system to get a temporary visitor’s visa.

The third important revision of China’s strict visa policies eases the regulations regarding residence permits, which formally needed to be renewed annually. From now on, family members of Chinese citizens will be allowed a two-year stay per permit, against the previous law of only one year. The country is also easing the regulations and requirement for foreigners requesting 10-year multi-entry visas.

Any loosening of the strict rules regarding entry into China is good news for the increasing number of expat professionals heading to Beijing and other Chinese industrial cities. The capital in particular has a thriving expat community comprising incomers from many Western countries mostly working for international companies or teaching English in schools and universities.
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