web Musings of The Global Traveller

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Changes to China visa rules

I'd seen reports of changes in China's visa requirements made before the Olympics but had not paid much attention, having already secured my Chinese visa before the changes occurred. The Practical Nomad has brought me up to speed with his latest entry. For casual travellers like me who spurn tours, travel independently, and make changes to their travels on the fly, the changes are a major inconvenience.

As well as seemingly abandoning the most flexible visa options, there are more hoops to jump through to get a visitor visa. The most significant of which, in my view, is visas must be issued at the embassy or consulate in the country of residency or citizenship (presumably exemptions for those from countries that have no Chinese embassy or consulate). So if you're in the middle of a trip and decide you want to visit China, you need to go back home first to get a visa.

Another change which might impact me (I haven't checked it out yet) is the requirement to arrange the visa in person. I use a specialist visa company for my visa requirements - one reason being that for many countries their nearest embassy/consulate is in another city or even another country. That company couriers the documents to the relevant city and has a local representative deal with the application - does that meet the requirements? Maybe.

One point I was surprised to read was this remark relating to a new question on the visa application form.

"Do you have any criminal record in China or any other country?"

I'd never been asked this question before, in more than 50
countries including previous visits to China, but it seems to be becoming more
common. I'll have more about this question in a separate forthcoming article.

Perhaps The Practical Nomad is unaware, or perhaps he has forgotten, but anyone who enters USA under either the visa waiver program or with a visa gets a similar question (see sample I94W form).


CG said...

Yes, unfortunately the USA (and many other countries now) asks all kinds of intrusive questions on the visa forms.

My favorite are some of the Middle East ones (Iran, Saudi, etc.) that ask you to list *every* country you've ever visited. That's problematic for people like you and I...

Steamboat Lion said...

That's inconvenient - I usually get my Chinese visa at the last minute in Hong Kong (via the hotel concierge - costs a bit extra but same day service and you don't have to do any of the leg work)

Don't know if it's on the I-94 (been a US green card holder / citizen for a while now) but US Immigration also likes to ask you if you were a Nazi war criminal during WWII. Being born in 1963, I've always wanted to answer "Yes, and would you like to inspect my time machine?"

The Global Traveller said...

Yes the Nazi question is on the USA I94W form (see the link in the blog post, question C).

The Global Traveller said...

cg - yes listing every country is a problem. For one some countries don't like it when you visit certain other countries. For this reason seasoned travellers who visit Israel often have a second passport or ask to be stamped on a separate piece of paper on entry and exit.

Some countries may not recognise other countries as countries - eg Russia does not recognise Kosovo.

Another problem is remembering the names of all the countries visited.

Also the list of countries is evolving - new ones are created, old ones disappear or merge (in part or in full), countries change their name. What do you put down for visits to those kinds of places?

CG said...

global traveller -

I now have a duplicate U.S. passport, and the new one doesn't have many stamps... so thus far when I've encountered the "List every country you have visited" question, I just list the ones I've been to on the duplicate passport (less than 10). I figure if they press me on it, I'll say something like, "Oh, I thought it just meant on the current passport."

I realize that could create difficulties of its own, but so far I think it's better than trying to actually list 90+ countries on one form - I suspect that might elicit a lot *more* questions.

And yes, I skipped the Israel stamp by crossing over to Jordan in the North (not from Jerusalem).