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(May 02, 2008) On May 6, 2008, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) admitted that more restrictive visa requirements had been introduced: "[w]e have made some arrangements according to usual international practice. That is, in the approval process we are more strict and more serious with the procedure," spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a regular press conference. (China FM Spokesman Admits Changes to Visa Policy Ahead of Olympic Games, AFP (Hong Kong), May 6, 2008, Open Source Center No. CPP20080506968167.)

Previously, the MOFA had denied any change in policy. No formal guidelines have been issued on the altered process, either, but it was reported in April 2008, in the ASSOCIATED PRESS and other news sources, that the Chinese authorities had tightened the visa rules, restricting many visitors to China to 30-day stays (instead of 90) and discontinuing the issuance of the flexible, multiple-entry visas that can be valid for a year. The Web site of Forever Bright Trading Limited, a China visa agency based in Hong Kong, states: "[w]e are informed by the China visa office that effective from 15 Apr 2008 there will be no more multi entry (F) visas available." It further states that those who still need visas can only apply for a single or double-entry visa (for which the duration of each stay is 30 days each) and "[a]ll this will stay in place until 17 Oct 2008." (Notice Board: Further Notice, visited May 6, 2008).)

According to Hong Kong travel agents, the shift in visa rules came in the aftermath of foreign attacks on China's human rights practices following the crackdown on anti-Chinese government riots in Tibet; one travel agency official speculated that the authorities want to "have a better control over the people coming in" as the Beijing Olympics near. (Travel Agents Cite Shift in Chinese Visa Rules, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Apr. 8, 2008, The NEW YORK TIMES noted "[t]he new rules make it harder for foreigners to live and work in Beijing without applying for residency permits, which can be difficult to obtain" and complicate not only the lives of businesspeople in Hong Kong but also those in Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore who are "used to crossing the border with ease." (Andrew Jacobs, Bracing for Games, China Sets Rules That Complicate Life for Foreigners, Apr. 24, 2008, available at

Qin Gang stated that China's recent visa policy had been duly arranged on the basis of past practice for the Olympics and international large-scale competitions as well as Chinese laws and regulations and that that this did not mean that multiple-entry visas had been completely suspended. According to Qin, "this policy may be carried out for a period of time, with the aim of ensuring that China has a safe environment." He stressed that the procedure for obtaining a China visa is more convenient than that of most other countries; for example, China does not require persons entering the country to be finger- or palm-printed or to have an iris or cornea scan. According to the MOFA Web site, "due arrangements" include requiring visa applicants to separately submit a letter of invitation, proof of family relationship, hotel reservation, and roundtrip airline tickets. China has not stopped issuing multiple-entry visas to applicants who meet the requirements, it adds, but officials will consider "the real need of the applicant" in granting them. (Wai Jiao Bu: Zhongguo jinqi youguan qianzheng zhengce xi genju Aoyun guanli anpai [Ministry of Foreign Affairs: China's recent visa policy system accords with Olympics Practice], XINHUA, May 6, 2008; AFP, supra; see also China Says It Tightens Visa Procedures Ahead of Olympics, Newsfeed Researcher Web site, May 6, 2008.)

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: Immigration and nationality More on this topic
Jurisdiction: China More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 05/02/2008