Travel to China is not as simple as getting a visa, however, many Chinese citizens have chosen to make the journey to learn and experience the Chinese culture. While most travel to China requires a visa to enter the country, some travelers prefer to apply for a residence permit without a visa. Chinese authorities are strict about issuing residence permits to unauthorized immigrants, so the chances of obtaining one are small.
Travel to China can be challenging for anyone traveling without an entry visa. There are stringent controls on the purchase of goods in China, including any international purchases. In addition to strict controls on imports, travelers are not permitted to bring certain items into the country. Such items include asbestos, pesticides, and drugs. Additionally, the authorities closely monitor travel to China from abroad, especially from countries that have recently imposed trade embargoes or are experiencing severe political problems with China.
China’s decision to limit entry to foreign nationals holding certain nationalities has caused difficulties for those who wish to travel to China. For example, tourists with Chinese nationality need to obtain a visa prior to travelling to China, while those without Chinese nationality are usually detained in the Chinese territory without access to the internet or other global electronic communication devices. Individuals travelling without a visa face the possibility of penalties or deportation. Furthermore, there are substantial delays in processing visas and permits for exit and entry. Such delays occur despite high government efforts to enhance internal procedures. The lack of progress towards establishing a regular visa system and the lack of systems in place to implement exit and entry restrictions contribute to increased risks and dangers for foreign nationals travelling to China.
Chinese authorities have taken measures to restrict non-nationals entering the country using counterfeit or fake visas. Individuals travelling to China on business purposes may find it difficult to acquire a visa and face the risk of being barred from leaving the country. There are no special requirements for business visitors, but there are some exceptions to the general visa requirements. Businessmen can obtain a business visa for up to three years by applying to the Ministry of State Security. This involves the submission of an application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with relevant documents relating to business activities carried out in China, payment of applicable fees and satisfying other immigration conditions.
Business travellers should note that, if they need to leave China for longer than three business days, they will not be permitted to enter the country without a visa. Furthermore, even if one is permitted to enter the country by crossing the border with a valid visa, they will only be allowed to remain for up to six consecutive business days. In practice, most Chinese diplomatic officials advise tourists to obtain visa-free entry. To comply with this, travellers should apply online via the Chinese consulate in their home countries. These sites offer customised online applications that can be filled in any applicable mode of payment including major credit cards.
There are some travel restrictions on Chinese nationals who have entered the country on tourist visas. Chinese nationals may only visit the Chinese mainland, or Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan or the Tibetan area of Amdo (the western portion of China). While in other areas of China, visitors may enter and leave without obtaining a visa.
It is important for travellers to be aware of travel restrictions when travelling to China. Chinese authorities tend to block access to certain areas of the country, particularly at times of high political demonstrations. At other times, they restrict access to large numbers of people. Some foreign representatives find that travel restrictions are related to the difficulty in obtaining a Chinese passport. This is because, in many cases, it can take years to obtain one.
There are numerous other categories of restrictions on travelling to China. For example, entering or exiting China without proper authorisation could include criminal consequences. Such authorisation could include special exit or entry permits, known as CPCTs. CPCTs are granted by the relevant foreign authorities upon payment of relevant fees. In some instances, failing to obtain such authorisation could include a prison term or a financial penalty.