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China: Travel Ban Lifted for Foreigners Holding Certain Chinese Residence Permits

(Oct. 14, 2020) On September 23, 2020, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and National Immigration Administration (NIA) jointly issued an announcement of a rule change that allows foreign nationals holding valid Chinese residence permits for work, personal matters, and family reunification to enter China without applying for new visas. (Announcement on Entry by Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Chinese Residence Permits of Three Categories (scroll down for English translation).) The new rule took effect on September 28, 2020.

According to the announcement, if a residence permit under one of these three categories expired after March 28, 2020, the holder may apply for a visa by presenting the expired residence permit, if the purpose of the holder’s visit to China remains unchanged.

Since March 28, 2020, most foreigners holding Chinese visas or residence permits have been prevented from entering China due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a previous announcement jointly issued by the MFA and the NIA on March 26, 2020. They could only apply for a new visa to enter on the basis of special reasons, such as necessary economic, trade, scientific, and technological activities or emergency humanitarian needs, the March announcement said.

The new announcement lifts the travel ban for foreigners holding one of the three specified categories of residence permits. According to article 15 of the Regulation on the Entry and Exit Administration of Foreigners issued by China’s State Council in 2013, there are a total of five categories of residence permits: work, study, journalist, family reunification, and personal matters. Under China’s Exit and Entry Administration Law (EEA Law), foreigners holding certain types of visas are required to obtain a residence permit from the local public security authority after entering China. Visitors seeking to stay for less than 180 days do not need a residence permit and may also not be eligible to apply for one. A residence permit holder may reenter within the period of stay granted by the permit. A residence permit for work may grant a stay of 90 days to five years, while other types of residence permits may grant a stay of 180 days to five years. (EEA Law art. 22, 29, 30.)

The announcement also stresses that foreigners entering China must strictly abide by the country’s epidemic prevention and control measures. Previously, in July 2020, Chinese authorities ordered both foreigners and returning Chinese citizens to present negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test results before boarding flights to China, and the required tests must be conducted within five days of embarkation at facilities designated or recognized by Chinese embassies in host countries. Since September 15, 2020, passengers flying from the United States have been required to present negative test results conducted within three days of embarkation.