China to extend visa exemption to six European countries

China to extend visa exemption to six European countries - Business and Finance - News

Title: China Expands Visa Exemption Policy to Six contact Countries: Boosting Foreign Tourism and Cross-Border Travel

The Chinese government has recently announced plans to extend its visa exemption policy to six additional contact countries, making it easier for foreign travelers from these nations to visit China starting March 14, 2023. The announcement was made by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a press conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress meeting in Beijing.

Visa exemptions for Swiss and Irish passport holders were previously announced in January when Chinese Premier Li Qiang visited both countries, with the other contact nations being the latest additions. The six new countries are Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Minister Wang expressed his hopes that more countries would offer similar visa facilitation to Chinese citizens and work together in building fast-track networks for cross-border travels. This move is expected to make it more convenient for Chinese citizens to travel abroad and make foreign friends feel at home in China.

China has been making strides to boost foreign tourism as its economy recovers, following a significant drop in international travelers due to the pandemic. To this end, China has signed reciprocal agreements with Thailand and Singapore to permanently waive tourist visa requirements for each other’s citizens since March 2023. In November 2022, China also announced a trial program allowing visitors from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia to enter visa-free for 15 days.

Although US travelers still need a tourist visa to enter China, the restrictions have been eased effective January 1, 2024. The Chinese embassy in Washington announced the newly relaxed guidelines on December 29, 2023, aiming to further facilitate people-to-people exchanges.

Despite these efforts, the number of foreign visitors to China has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, with 2023 arrival numbers down more than 60%. According to the National Immigration Administration, border authorities recorded 35.5 million entries and exits by foreign nationals in 2023 – a significant increase compared to the previous year but still only 36% of the 97.7 million entries and exits recorded in 2019.

The road to a full recovery for China’s international tourism sector is expected to be long, but momentum has been picking up toward the end of 2023.

Additional reporting by Lilit Marcus, Veronica Lin, and Nectar Gan.