Travel to China is normally subject to exit controls. You may need a visa to travel to China. Chinese Visa Application Centers is available in most of the major cities. On 4 October the Chinese Embassy in UK announced that Chinese citizens who do not have valid travel documents will be prohibited from travelling to the UK for up to six months starting from the date of the announcement. There will be a period of consultation to review the decision.
The Chinese government has notified the British embassy that they have the right to ban any person from entering the country if they do not have a visa waiver. The Chinese diplomatic mission in UK conveyed this decision via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on 7 October. The Ministry did not specify the reasons for the decision and there were no travel advisories or statements issued for travel to China. Foreign Secretary William Bell responded to the Chinese request by stating that the decision was taken as part of the UK’s policy on entering China via the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
In recent years China has become a popular destination for British tourists. The number of tourists visiting China has increased dramatically over the last five year period. The rate of decline in the pound has made it easier for British citizens to travel to China without a passport or visa. However, it is still required to leave the country via one of the designated exit points. For example, all flights from Britain to Beijing arrive at the Beijing Capital International Airport or through the special access road. It is required to leave China either via these routes or on an open-air vehicle.
British citizens travelling to China will not be permitted to exceed the duration of six months during which time they will be required to obtain exit visas. The Chinese government does not recognise the validity of British visas granted in other countries, including China, until the relevant documentation is received. This can often be a lengthy process. There are also several specific requirements that cannot be ignored, such as evidence that the applicant is a permanent resident of the UK or the dependents.
British citizens have been advised to avoid the Global Britain visa scheme, which is similar to the China visit visa scheme. The main attraction of this scheme is that it is a fast track program that will allow immediate entry to China for Chinese national workers and their family members, whilst allowing indefinite stay after the end of the scheme. This works around the current inability of the authorities to verify identity and evidence of residence. Because of the strict penalties of exit visa refusal and inflexible nature of the Chinese work permit system, this is not considered a viable option.
The most important element of the China Visa Regulations is the requirement that any non-business visitors, other than business personnel, register with the customs office within seven days prior to travel. Visitors who do not register with the port of entry remain in immediate contravention of the law and can face severe penalties. These penalties include a fine of up to five thousand pounds, as well as possible arrest and deportation.
If you are unable to reach the Chinese embassy in time to register, your passport will be rejected. It is important to ensure that you have all of the correct visa documentation when travelling to China. Some people are tempted to leave their documents at the China embassy while in transit, but this is illegal and could result in serious problems during your visit.
Most modern hotels offer a complimentary breakfast service. You should expect to receive a copy of your flight details and confirmation of your booking from the travel operator. You may also receive a visa number or registration card, which is valid for a period of time. You are not obliged to return to the same local hotel as your passport was issued to you. If you have booked your accommodation in advance of your trip and are travelling from an overseas country, the consular department of your host country will normally provide assistance and advice when you arrive in China.