The Chinese government tightly controls its domestic citizens’ travel abroad. Many Chinese people will only travel outside China when special events or opportunities for them present themselves. Of course, this can be dangerous, but there’s also a certain thrill to escaping home and exploring a foreign culture. However, for anyone planning a trip to China, there are a few precautions they should be aware of.
A caution to anybody else travelling to China: You can easily become next. For any one travelling to China, the likelihood of being detained for any reason is extremely low. Prior to the recent pandemic, around three thousand Americans visited China every year. Whilst these numbers have drastically dropped since, it doesn’t mean that they no longer have a place in Chinese law. If you do not follow the correct behaviour when visiting China, you can expect to be barred entry into the country and held indefinitely on arrival. This isn’t just inconvenient; it’s illegal.
The same goes for all visitors to India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. There’s currently a freeze on all types of Chinese visas, making travelling to China extremely difficult, if not impossible. Those with Chinese heritage or work experience are particularly at risk. In addition to the travel restrictions, there’s a ban on the export of goods created in China. Again, this means that all foreign nationals wishing to enter China will need a visa.
All travellers to China need to apply for an exit permit (traveller’s visa). These can only be issued once the applicant has fulfilled all exit requirements in China, including employment and registration. No other exit requirements exist for those travelling outside China. It’s easy to get hold of a Chinese railway visa: the Chinese State Council has designated it as a special category of entry. This means that you don’t have to worry about documenting your status when leaving: it’s a simple process that normally takes one day, after which you’ll be able to leave and enter China.
The first two categories of exit requirements – labour requirements and registration – apply to all foreigners. The third category, dealing with goods entering or leaving China, is different for those travelling to China. In spite of this, there are some seasonal exceptions. For example, goods brought into China by private individuals who do not meet the labour requirements can still enter the country during theang sao festival, or in the month of January, when Chinese state media frequently advise citizens to visit their suppliers and vendors. In any case, however, it’s best to book your trip well in advance to take advantage of these opportunities.
Once you have your exit visa and confirmation of registration from the Chinese authorities, you can proceed to the Chinese embassy. Foreign nationals travelling to China for the first time need to obtain an exit visa from the Chinese embassy while they are also checking whether they have all the relevant documents necessary to proceed. You can do this at the embassy or by fax. If you’re taking a flight to Beijing, your passport should be valid and enable you to stay for at least six months. You’ll need to present this document to the embassy upon exiting China and to receive your exit visa at the same time.
Before leaving China for your trip, it’s worthwhile getting a hold of a copy of your flight schedule, your return schedule from Beijing, as well as your itinerary and all the details of the cities you’re aiming to visit. Your stay in the country will depend on your schedule, so it’s good to know where you are going to arrive and when you’re expected back. As part of your registration at the airport, you’ll also need to present a copy of your visa and any immunization certificates you may have. Many Chinese authorities may also require you to have a Chinese Passport, so be sure to have one with you at all times. You may also need to show photo identification, like your driver’s license or your passport if you have one, or a copy of your student visa from your home country.
Once you have obtained all the required documents, you should be ready to leave for your trip. When you arrive at the Chinese embassy, you’ll be required to show proof of registration by presenting your passport. If you have a Chinese Passport, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you’ll be required to fill out a visa application form, which will ask you to provide details about your travel plans, including the destination country, reason for travel and contact information. You’ll also need to present your flight schedule and all your other documents, and sign the slip you receive in exchange for your visa.