China’s border controls remain among the strictest in the world to avoid imported Covid-19 cases, although in the past few months there have been signs of a gradual relaxation of some of China’s travel restrictions. Here’s the latest
Applying for a visa to China
At a press conference on Monday, 15 March, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated that “With a view to resuming international travel in an orderly fashion, starting from… March 15, China provides visa facilitation for foreigners who have received Chinese vaccines and hold a vaccination certificate.” Since then, Chinese embassies in more than 100 countries and regions, including the UK, have published new visa guidelines on their websites.
According to the website of the Chinese embassy in the UK, if you have received at least one dose of a China-produced vaccine at least 14 days prior to application, “non-Chinese nationals in the UK holding valid Chinese residence permits for work, personal matters and reunion will no longer be affected for entry into China.” If you are applying for a business/work visa, you can apply with the same documents as before the pandemic, i.e., you no longer need a special PU/TE invitation. The scope of eligibility for emergency humanitarian visas has also been expanded, including foreign family members of Chinese citizens or permanent residents of China intending to reunite with family, attend funerals, etc.
Flight availability and the travel process
Most major countries have a limited number of weekly direct flights to China, although these flights are subject to cancellation if multiple passengers from the same flight test positive for Covid-19. All passengers travelling to China must present hard copy negative nucleic acid and IgM antibody test results taken within 48 hours of your flight and a certified Health Declaration Form or Health Declaration Code obtained via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Health Declaration Certificate website. The tests must be taken at a designated institution; for example, this page links to the testing sites specified by the Chinese embassy in the UK.
As of late December 2020, direct flights between the UK and China are suspended until further notice. You can transit via a third country but you must re-take both of the aforementioned tests and re-submit the health declaration. To do this, you must either be able to enter the country you are transiting through or transit via an airport with testing facilities; to date, these include Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and Frankfurt Airport.
It is also worth noting that in England, you must have a permitted reason to travel abroad (such as work, education, or participation in elite sports competitions) and complete a declaration form before travelling.
All travellers entering China must complete at least two weeks and up to one month of government-organised quarantine, with the exact length depending on your final destination in China. For example, travellers arriving in Beijing must complete 14 days in a centralised quarantine facility, seven further days in quarantine either at home or in a centralised facility if home conditions are not appropriate, and seven days of health monitoring (usually reporting your temperature twice a day to your local community management office). You will receive nucleic acid tests (and potentially blood tests or other tests) when you arrive at your first point of entry in China and at designated times throughout quarantine.
Note: Travel restrictions are subject to frequent changes. Please check with your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate for the latest information before making travel plans.