Update: Comments on this post have now been closed - we encourage readers who'd like to continue to discuss visa queries to head to either this section of the Beijinger forum or to Nadine's page devoted to visa issues - which can be found here - http://fxzl.blogspot.com
"We 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"
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang
Beijing saw a marked drop in the number of overseas tourists in April, which fell by 5.3 percent year-on-year, according to official statistics revealed on Tuesday. Yu Xiuqin, the bureau's spokeswoman attributed the decrease partly to Beijing's tightened business visa approvals on foreign visitors for international exhibitions and conferences, because of safety concerns for the coming Olympic Games.
China Daily: Beijing sees marked drop in overseas tourists in April
An enormous amount of confusion currently exists throughout Beijing's expat community in regard to the Chinese government's apparent, but not officially announced, recent tightening of visa policies. The lack of an adequate response from government departments and spokespeople to the increasing demand for clarification of the gap between the existing regulations and commonly observed practices, has only added to the frustration felt by both business people and those hoping to travel to China during the Olympic period. As applications are being handled on a case-by-case basis, it’s almost impossible to make absolute and irrefutable statements about what’s going on, still, patterns have begun to emerge and below I outline what is known and what can be suspected to be the case in regard to the new visa situation.
What we know for sure:
Since mid-April, additional documents need to be provided to obtain L and F visas:
L (tourist) visa: Outbound and return flight booking and stamped (chopped) hotel reservation for the complete duration of stay. If staying at a relative's house, proof of kinship (marriage / birth certificate) and copies of his/her passport, visa, residence permit and police registration need to be provided.
F (business) visa: Flight booking, stamped (chopped) hotel reservation and original invitation letter from a relevant department of the Chinese government, company or institution, under the authorization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.
L and F visas are issued for a standard duration of 30 days, single entry, unless flight bookings (e.g. to Hong Kong) are provided to prove double entry is needed. To obtain a visa for a longer duration, a full travel itinerary needs to be provided. The visa application form has been changed to a much more detailed version.
Extensions of F visa in China are only possible until June 30th, 2008. Interns and short-term project workers are required to apply for a Z visa if an uninterrupted stay in China is required.
The possibility of visa applications in Hong Kong has been severely reduced. Although some 30 days L and F and some Z visas still seem to be issued, the Visa office in Hong Kong requests all foreign passport holders that do not have a Hong Kong residence permit to apply for visas in their respective home country. Expect longer queues and processing times of up to five days. Visa applications in other Asian countries seem to be just as difficult. A list of 33 countries (a list can be found here) whose nationals need to apply for visa in their respective home country has been published; however, restrictions also seem to apply to other nationals.
Z visa extensions, new Z visas and spouse visas have not been affected by the new policies. However, dependent visa that were previously also issued to non-married couples with children now require the provision of a marriage certificate.
Student (X) visas for the summer are only issued by a very limited number of universities and language schools.
The authorities are increasingly tracking down foreigners without valid visas and Registrations of Temporary Residence. Foreigners overstaying their visas are charged any where between RMB 500 to RMB 5,000/day. According to multiple reports, foreigners without a valid visa must expect to be awarded the red “has to leave China within ten days” stamp in their passport, which will make it nearly impossible to apply for a new visa.
Other rumors out there
It seems that staying at private accommodation is no longer an option for tourists from at least some countries as either a hotel booking or a proof of kinship need to be provided. Hotels have received stricter deadlines about the ID registration of their guests by the PSB and are more and more expected to demand full payment upfront to prevent fake bookings.
Concerning L and F visa, it seems extremely difficult to get a visa for any duration longer than 30 days. If 60 or 90 days visas are issued, most of them only allow a maximum duration of stay of 30 days in China.
Extensions of L visa have been reported to be subject to the provision of Olympic tickets a copy of your debit card or a bank account statement showing certain funds (reports range between USD 100 and 150/day of stay in China). It still remains unclear if tickets acquired through the China resident ticket round can be used.
There are still reports about successful applicants of 6 month and 1 year multiple entry F visas, however, none of them could be verified or tracked down to the reasons.
While researching this post, we attempted to get clarification from both the Exit and Entry Management Section of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the current state of visa policies. The lady on duty at the Exit and Entry Management Section of the Beijing PSB informed us that all questions related to the formalities of getting a visa during the Olympic period should be referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When we inquired about the likelihood of being able to extend visas from within China during the Olympics, we were informed that there was no definite policy and she could not provide any firm advice. We called the number for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supplied by the PSB and were forwarded on twice before being given the number 6596 3788. None of our repeated calls to this number were answered.
The Beijinger Forum: Visa Issues
The China Visa Blog www.thechinavisa.blogspot.com
Shanghai Expat: Guide to Getting your Z-Visa / Work and Residence Permit
Danwei: China visa confusion (May 6)
Shanghaiist: China visa updates (May 6)
Chinatravel.net: New Chinese Visa Rules: Please Read (Apr 30)
All Roads Lead to China: China F Visa Update
One-Eyed Panda’s Journal: China Visa Update
The Beijinger: Visa Woes (Jul 25)
A Timeline of Reporting on Visa Issues
China Daily: Beijing sees marked drop in overseas tourists in April (May 20)
China Daily: China says visa policy in line with Olympics practice (May 6)
AFP: Australia warns China over visa restrictions (May 6)
CNN: Visa rules tightened for tourists ahead of Beijing Olympics (May 6)
New York Times: Bracing for Games, China Sets Rules That Complicate Life for Foreigners (Apr 24)
MSNBC: China steps up security ahead of Olympics (Apr 24)
Shanghaiist: More updates on the Chinese visa situation (Apr 18)
China's Foreign Ministry Website in Hong Kong: Notice of Changed Rules – “If you don't reside or work in Hong Kong permanently, you are required to apply Chinese visa from the Embassy or Consulate General of Peoples' Republic of China in your resident country.” (Apr 13)
Countdown to Beijing: New Terror Plot, Visa Clampdown (Apr 10)
Countdown to Beijing: China's Visa Squeeze(Feb 20) www.blog.newsweek.com/blogs/beijing/archive/2008/02/20/china-s-visa-squeeze.aspx?print=true"
Newsweek: Beijing’s Visa Crackdown (Feb 18)
Spot On: Mean Streets (Oct 9, 2007)
Wall Street Journal: China's Visa Crackdown Reflects Olympics Anxiety (Sep 20, 2007)
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in New Zealand: Beijing eases visa requirements (Feb 3, 2005)
Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (Chinese)
Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau: Foreigners, Visa Document Management
Beijing Official Website: Visa Information (latest update Oct, 2005)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China: Foreign Ministry's Regular Press Conferences at which foreign journalists often ask questions about China’s visa policies
Beijing 2008: Welcome to Beijing – Entry
Beijing 2008: Launching Your Olympics Journey
Beijing 2008: Customs entry-exit inspection to be simplified for the Games