China to restart broad visa approvals halted due to pandemic

China to restart broad visa approvals halted due to pandemic

WASHINGTON: Lifting sweeping restrictions in force since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, China will resume issuing a range of visas to foreigners beginning March 15, 2023, announced the country’s embassy in Washington on Monday (local time).

In addition to new travel documents being reviewed and approved, visas issued before March 28, 2020, that are still valid will once again allow entry to China, said the embassy notice. The updated policy will also allow for the resumption of visa-free travel for those arriving on cruise ships to Shanghai, as well as for certain tourist groups from Hong Kong, Macau and countries within the ASEAN regional grouping, the notice said.

While most other countries began reopening to international travel earlier, China only began emerging from its zero-Covid policies in late 2022, after protests broke out against the hardline restrictions.

Earlier in January, Chinese embassies suspended issuing new visas for South Koreans and Japanese in apparent retaliation for Covid-19 testing requirements recently imposed by those countries on travellers from China.

The embassies in Tokyo and Seoul announced the suspensions in brief online notices.

The Seoul notice, posted on the embassy’s WeChat social media account, said the ban would continue until South Korea lifts its “discriminatory entry measures” against China. The announcement covered tourist, business and some other visas.

China’s Foreign Ministry threatened countermeasures against countries that had announced new virus testing requirements for travellers from China.

At least 10 in Europe, North America and Asia have done so recently, with officials expressing concern about a lack of information about rapidly spreading virus outbreaks in China. China’s embassy in Tokyo said only that visa issuance had been suspended. The announcements appeared to apply only to new applicants, with nothing about people currently holding visas.

China’s move appeared to be grounded in its demands that its citizens be treated the same as those of other countries. About a dozen countries have followed the US in requiring either a negative test before departing China, a virus test on arrival at the airport, or both. (ANI)

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