The Great China Visa Debate

On Saturday morning while I was sitting in Starbucks a group of Laowais walked in and they were talking how they were all afraid that they were going to all be kicked out of China because they can’t renew their visas. Now from their conversation I could tell that this was an area they didn’t have a lot of experience with (my company follows this issue closely as we advise people who are establishing their China operations for the first time so I have a bit more knowledge than the average person) but I wanted to go over and just tell them to stop over-reacting.

For those that don’t know the Chinese government has restricted the issuing of multiple entry F visas for business lengthened the minimum application processing time to four days and limited the issuing of visas in Hong Kong to only permanent residents of the SAR.

There has also been a lot of good coverage of this issue in blogs and the mainstream media. But as the above conversation shows a lot of people have become consumed by fear — just check out this post on Shanghaiist about foreign students supposedly being expelled for the Olympics — it turned out to be a false alarm. And that is throwing people into a tizzy.

As I mentioned to a reporter from the German business newspaper Handelsblatt yesterday the restrictions that are being put in place aren’t a catastrophe they are to deal with volume. Lots of people are expected to come to China for the Olympics so that means more visa applications hence the longer waiting times you’ve heard about. Many people travel to Hong Kong — since you don’t need a visa to get in there — and apply for China visas in HK. Too many people are doing that now for the foreign ministry office in HK to handle hence the regulations that foreigners who are not permanent residents of HK must apply for a China visa in their country of residence.

What that means is until the regulations return back to normal which is expected to be in September you need to plan ahead. If you are on a visa that requires you to renew it outside the country (ie anything other than a Z-class visa) arrange a trip home at the same time. You’re not going to be denied a visa as long as you’ve obeyed the laws here and aren’t a known pro-T1bet/F*G* protestor. You just can’t leave visa renewal to the last minute now.

J.

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