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China Relaxes Requirements for Business Visas Upon Arrival

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has issued a new set of measures that will allow business travellers to China to register for a business visa upon arrival. In addition, new regulations for residence permits will permit applicants to keep their passports throughout the application process.

The new measures do not yet specify the requirements for the visa-upon-arrival for business travellers. According to MPS officials cited by the Global Times, the relevant departments will endeavour to finalise and implement the new regulations by the end of August.

The new measures permit foreigners travelling to China on short notice for business purposes to file for a business visa upon arrival, rather than before departure.

Foreigners travelling to China for business-related activities, including business negotiations, business exchanges, installation and maintenance, participation in exhibitions and conferences, investment and entrepreneurship, who do not have time to apply for a business visa at a visa centre abroad may apply for a port visa upon arrival. They will be required to present a letter of invitation from the company and supporting documentation.

In addition, individuals who must travel to and from China multiple times for business purposes will be permitted to reapply for a legitimate, multiple-entry business visa after entering the country.

This will greatly facilitate cross-border people exchange and make it simpler for foreign and multinational company employees to visit their offices in China.

China already has a port visa system that allows business travellers to enter the country without procuring a visa in advance. However, the applicant must have an invitation letter from the relevant agency stating that the traveller must respond to an emergency situation. As a result, obtaining a visa upon arrival is not guaranteed, and purposes such as attending events or meetings are likely not acceptable.

Foreigners travelling to China for trade or business purposes are required to register in advance for a "M" business visa. This entails submitting required documents along with a valid passport or travel document to a Chinese visa service centre in the applicant's country of citizenship or residence.

In addition, because business visas are generally only single-entry and short-term (generally 30 days), frequent travellers to and from China are required to reapply for a business visa each time they return if no other visa arrangements have been made.

As is the case with other on-arrival entry permits, it is currently unclear whether travellers will be required to enter China through specific ports to register for the business visa on arrival. In the following month, the MPS is anticipated to make additional announcements clarifying the specific implementation procedures.

In addition to the modifications to the business visa, the new measures stipulate that foreigners applying for residence permits in China may now keep their passports while their applications are being processed.

All foreigners who enter China on a work or study visa and intend to remain in China for work or study on a long-term basis are required to convert their entry visa into a residence permit within 30 days of their arrival by submitting an application to the local public security bureau. Typically, this is accomplished with assistance from the company, school, or other institution that enables the individual to reside in China.

Previously, applicants were required to submit their passports to the local public security bureau, which would hold them for the duration of the registration process (typically three weeks). During this period, the public security bureau issued applicants a provisional travel document; however, applicants could only travel within China with this document and could not travel internationally.

Since reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2022, the Chinese government has made efforts to attract foreign investment. Efforts have generally centred on providing more opportunities in areas such as government bidding, better protection of intellectual property rights, and enhancements to the business environment in China as a whole.

These latest modifications to the business visa requirements can be viewed as a more direct method of encouraging foreign employees to travel to and from China on business.

Due to the variable processing times for business visas, this procedure can impede people's ability to travel on short notice, which can be especially problematic for those travelling to deal with urgent situations or attend last-minute events and meetings. In addition, easing the application process for multiple-entry business visas will reduce the administrative burden on businesses and make it simpler for employees to make frequent and unplanned trips to China.

Nevertheless, the efficacy of the on-arrival business visa will depend on its implementation, which has not yet been specified. We will continue to monitor MPS announcements and provide updates regarding the requisite documentation and procedures for the on-arrival business visa.

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