Foreign travelers enjoy greater convenience in China

By Zhang Tianpei, People’s Daily

China has launched a series of policies to facilitate foreign travelers, becoming a huge magnet for tourists around the world.

Currently, foreign nationals from 54 countries are eligible for the 72/144-hour transit visa-free policies that are effective at 38 ports in 18 provincial-level regions across China. Besides, China has also allowed visa-free entry of foreign tourist groups aboard cruise ships via all cruise ship ports along the country’s coastline, and relaxed the conditions for foreign nationals to apply for port visas in the country.

China recorded 14.64 million inbound trips made by foreigners in the first half of this year, up 152.7 percent year on year, according to data from China’s National Immigration Administration (NIA).

“The number of foreigners visiting China is expected to continue rising in the second half of this year,” said an NIA official.

Anderson, a Danish university student, stumbled upon the information online that he was eligible for a 144-hour visa-free transit in China. Upon making this discovery, he was filled with excitement and wasted no time in booking a flight that would transfer at Chengdu Tianfu International Airport, southwest China’s Sichuan province, right at the start of summer vacation.

“I love giant pandas so much. I heard that Sichuan is the hometown of giant pandas, so I’ve always wanted to visit it,” said Anderson.

“This visa-free transit policy offers much convenience. The transit procedure went really fast. It gives me another regular choice when I choose tourist destinations. I look forward to visiting more cities in China to better understand the profound Chinese history and culture and experience the splendid folk customs across the country,” he said, thumbing up to China’s 144-hour visa-free transit policy.

Currently, citizens from 54 countries are exempted from visa requirements during transit for 72 or 144 hours in China when heading for a third nation. As China continues to expand its visa-free “circle of friends,” the country has witnessed a significant increase in the number of inbound tourists this year, which is giving a huge boost to its inbound tourism market, said an NIA official.

Immigration inspection departments at all ports in China have launched multiple new measures to facilitate the entries of foreign nationals, including reducing the waiting time for inspection, self-service completion of declaration forms, and establishing multilingual volunteer service teams, to provide high-quality and efficient entry services for inbound tourists.

Tourist groups each consisting of two foreigners or more, and organized or received by Chinese travel agencies, can now enter China visa-free on board cruise ships via the cruise ports in 13 Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Sanya. They can stay in China for no longer than 15 days.

The adoption of the 15-day visa-free policy for international cruise tour groups came after years of successful trials across different regions in China, which began in Shanghai in October 2016. Official data showed that since the inception of the pilot initiative, Shanghai has experienced an annual average growth of 10 percent in cruise tourist arrivals.

Now the policy has been expanded to more Chinese cities, which will help to attract more foreign cruise ships to Chinese cruise ports, driving the cruise industry and port development.

Besides, seven cruise ports, namely Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beihai, have been designated as visa-free transit ports for nationals from 54 countries, an NIA official noted.

At 10:00 pm on July 3, at the visa office of Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport, Wang Meifang, an immigration officer with the Exit-Entry Administration of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, received a phone call for help from the head of a Chinese tech firm, who urgently needed to invite two foreign experts to China.

Wang explained port visa application requirements in detail, inquired about the information of the tech firm’s invitation, and guided the caller to submit online passport copies, invitation letter and relevant certificates. Everything was nailed in less than half an hour.

At 4:53 am on July 5, the two foreign experts landed at Beijing Capital International Airport. Wang had already completed preparations for visa processing in the visa office of the Terminal 3. After having their photos taken and paying visa fees, the two experts received their visas, full of praise for the efficient, fast and meticulous border inspection services.

As of now, port visa services have been provided at 100 ports in 73 cities in China that see a large number of international flights and a high volume of foreign nationals entering China.

“We welcome more foreign friends to travel, do business, work, study, and invest in China,” said an NIA official. According to the official, China issued 686,000 port visas in the first half of 2024, up 267.9 percent from a year ago.


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