China - New Visa-Waiver Scheme

Update, May 8, 2024: China has extended the visa-free policy for short-term visits to China for 12 countries until December 31, 2025. The extension is “to promote exchanges between Chinese and foreign nationals”, and applies to citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Citizens of these countries with ordinary passports will be allowed to enter and stay in China visa-free for up to 15 days for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends, and transit.

Update, March 7, 2024: The government of China is extending limited visa-free travel to an additional six European countries. As of Thursday, 14 March, passport holders from Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg will also be allowed to visit China for business, tourism, or to visit family, for up to 15 days without a visa. The waiver for these six countries will remain in effect until 30 November 2024.

For visits of longer than 15 days, or for reasons other than those cited above, visitors will still need to apply for the appropriate visa from the Chinese government.

Late last year, China launched visa-free travel for up to 15 days for passport holders from six countries – please see our original post below for additional information.

Original post: November 27, 2023

China is granting a visa-waiver to citizens of six countries, allowing them to visit China for periods up to 15 days for Business, Tourism, Family Visit, and Transit purposes. The waiver applies to citizens/passport holders from the following countries.

  • Germany​
  • The Netherlands​
  • France
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Malaysia​

China already allows short-term visa-free travel from some Asian nations, including Singapore.

The waiver is being introduced on a temporary basis and is expected to be in place for at least the next year. The waiver goes into effect for passport holders from the six countries on 01 December. It allows entry through any port-of-entry in Mainland China. People traveling on the visa-waiver are limited to a single entry/exit; multiple entries are not permitted. The traveler must exit China by midnight of the 14th day of their visit.

The policy may be revoked by the Chinese government at any time. It comes as China continues to try to build back international tourism following the COVID-19 pandemic. While China has seen domestic travel now exceed pre-pandemic levels, international travel to China is still lagging. ​

Immigration Insights​

Although the policy has been formally announced, a number of questions remain. It is unclear if existing visas for travel from these countries for periods under 15 days will still remain valid. China is indicating travelers will not be able to apply for visas “just in case” as a backup, if they qualify for the waiver. It is also unclear if airlines and cruise lines have been informed of the policy change, and if attempting to travel visa-free will cause issue with air carriers and cruise lines.

We will continue to monitor this developing situation and continue to provide updates about its implementation.

This immigration update is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal or scenario-specific advice. Furthermore, it is important to note that immigration announcements are subject to sudden and unexpected changes. Readers are encouraged to reach out to CIBTvisas for any case- or company-specific assessments.

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