China Relaxes Entry Restrictions for Foreigners Inoculated with Chinese Vaccines
Several Chinese embassies recently issued notices on relaxing entry restrictions for passengers who have obtained Chinese COVID-19 shots.
What Do The Notices Say?
Chinese Vaccine Beneficiaries to Access Visa Relaxations
According to the notices, starting March 15, 2021, travelers who have received Chinese COVID-19 vaccines and obtained the vaccination certificate will enjoy facilitation for visa applications.
Visa Application by Foreign Nationals to Resume Work in China
When applying for a visa, foreign nationals and their family members visiting China for resuming work and production in various fields will only need to provide:
- The documents required before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following documents are no longer required:
- The Invitation Letter (PU);
- The Invitation Letter (TE); or
- The Invitation Verification Notice issued by the foreign affairs offices or the departments of commerce of the provincial (including autonomous regions and municipalities) governments or the headquarters of central state-owned enterprises are no longer required.
Visa Application Out of Emergency Humanitarian Needs
For those applying for a visa out of emergency humanitarian needs, the scope of eligible applicants will be expanded as appropriate.
The eligible applicants include:
- Foreign family members of Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China, including spouse, parents, children, and other close relatives living together (referring to siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren).
The purpose of the visit to China can be:
- Reuniting with family;
- Taking care of the elderly;
- Visiting relatives;
- Attending funerals; or
- Visiting critically ill relatives.
Visa Application by APEC Business Travel Card Holders
Holders of valid APEC business travel cards may apply for the M visa by presenting:
- The original valid APEC business travel card; and
- The invitation letter issued by the inviting party in the mainland of China.
To be noted, the above-mentioned visa facilitation applies only to applicants who have been inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines produced in China (either having received two doses of Chinese-made vaccines with the stipulated time gap in between or having received a single-dose of the Chinese-made vaccine at least 14 days prior to the application) and obtained the vaccination certificate.
A proof of a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test result and the Health and Travel Record Declaration Form for Visa Application are no longer required.
China’s Electronic Health Certificate in the Works: What We Know
The embassies’ notices were released shortly after March 7, 2021 when Beijing stated its plan to issue electronic health certificates and implement mutual recognition of other countries’ COVID-19 tests and inoculations.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Two Sessions, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the digital health certificate program would allow countries to mutually recognize travelers’ nucleic acid testing and vaccine histories and achieve “a healthy, safe, and regulated new order for cross-border exchanges of people.”
Wang mentioned that China is engaging with international partners on the program without disclosing more details on the countries involved and the status of the program.
Last November, China’s foreign ministry first revealed that it was working on a system for countries to recognize each other’s health information of travelers.
A week ago, right after foreign minister Wang Yi’s speech, a mock-up of the digital and print versions of the International Travel Health Certificates was disclosed in the official WeChat account of the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Although public concerns remain as to whether personal privacy can be fully protected, this indicates that China may potentially loosen its stringent travel restrictions for people who can prove they are either immune to the virus or not infected with it.