In a surprise move to further facilitate cross-border travel and closer communication ties, China has launched a unilateral visa-free policy for passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia for business, leisure and transit on a trial basis effective from 1 December 2023 to 30 November 2024.
On 24 November 2023, China announced it would implement a trial policy of unilateral visa-free entry for ordinary passport holders from the six countries. During the trial, their ordinary passport holders who travel to China for business or tourism, or to visit friends or relatives, or who pass through China in transit, will be granted visa-free entry for up to 15 days.
Ordinary passport holders from any of the six countries who do not satisfy the visa-free entry conditions will still need to obtain a Chinese visa corresponding to the purpose of their visit before they arrive in China. For example, people coming to China to work will usually need a work visa.
Before the new policy’s implementation, ordinary passport holders from Singapore and Brunei were already granted unilateral visa-free entry for up to 15 days. China’s policy of granting unilateral 15-day visa-free entry to Japanese citizens was suspended on 29 March 2020 as part of its covid-19 restrictions, and has not been resumed as of publication of this article.
This means ordinary passport holders from Japan will need to apply for a Chinese visa or, if they meet the particular conditions, carry out visa-free transit procedures under the 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy.
China’s 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy is currently applicable to 54 countries. The main conditions for such entry are that the applicant must:
- Be a citizen of one of the countries eligible for 72/144-hour visa-free transit; and
- Hold an international travel document (valid for at least three months), proving their nationality and identity.
The entry conditions of the third country/region to which the applicant is travelling need to be fulfilled as well. The applicant needs to hold a connecting ticket (or relevant proof) with a confirmed date and seat for travel to the third country/region within 72/144 hours, depending on the length of the period of visa-free transit for which they have applied.
Business Law Digest is compiled with the assistance of Baker McKenzie. Readers should not act on this information without seeking professional legal advice.
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