Over the past few months, PRC authorities have rolled out a series of new immigration policies, ranging from granting visa-free entries to issuing new version of permanent resident IDs, with the aim of further promoting trade, tourism, and international exchanges. This update offers a summary of the key aspects of these new policies.

Visa Policies

Mutual Visa Exemption

China and Singapore have reached an agreement to grant visa-free entry to each other’s citizens for stays of up to 30 days, effective from 9 February 2024. This policy applies to holders of ordinary passports traveling for tourism, family visit or business purposes.

A similar agreement has been reached between China and Thailand on mutual visa exemption. Starting from 1 March 2024, citizens of Thailand can enter China without a visa for a single stay of up to 30 days (with a total of no more than 90 days every 180 days), and vice versa. This policy applies to Chinese holders of service passports and ordinary passports, and Thai holders of ordinary passports.

With these agreements in place, China now has full mutual visa exemption arrangements with a total of 23 countries, including Thailand, Singapore, the Maldives, and the United Arab Emirates.

Unilateral Visa Exemption

Starting from 1 December 2023 until 30 November 2024, China is implementing a trial policy of unilateral visa exemption for six countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia. Citizens holding ordinary passports of these countries can enjoy visa-free entry into China for business, tourism, family visits, and transit for up to 15 days.

Furthermore, China has announced plans to extend unilateral visa exemptions to Switzerland and Ireland.

In a reciprocal move, Malaysia has announced that from 1 December 2023 to 31 December 2024, Chinese citizens can enjoy visa-free entry into Malaysia for stays of up to 30 days.

New Measures to Facilitate International Visits

To facilitate international travellers coming to China for business, study, and tourism purposes, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has implemented five new measures effective from 11 January 2024, including:

  1. easing the port visa application requirements for international visitors. Foreign nationals who urgently need to visit China for non-diplomatic or non-official activities, such as business cooperation, investment, family visits, or personal matters, can apply for a port visa upon arrival by presenting invitation letters and other relevant supporting documents to the port visa authorities.
  2. 24-hour direct transit at major airports. A 24-hour direct transit policy, exempting foreign nationals from border inspection procedures, has been implemented at nine international airports. These include Beijing Capital, Beijing Daxing, Shanghai Pudong, Hangzhou Xiaoshan, Xiamen Gaoqi, Guangzhou Baiyun, Shenzhen Bao’an, Chengdu Tianfu, and Xi’an Xianyang. This means that passengers with international connecting tickets within 24 hours, transiting through any of these airports to a third country or region, can enjoy visa-free transit without border inspection procedures.
  3. convenient visa extension, renewal and reissue at the nearest location. Foreign nationals in China for short-term non-diplomatic or non-official activities, who have valid reasons to extend their stay, can conveniently apply for visa extension, renewal, or reissue at the local public security bureau.
  4. re-entry visa for multiple exits and entries. Foreign nationals in China who need to exit and re-enter multiple times for valid reasons can apply for a multiple-entry visa at the public security bureau, provided they have an invitation letter or other relevant documentation.
  5. simplified visa application process. The visa application process has been simplified for foreign nationals. If their information such as accommodation registration records, business licenses can be verified through information sharing, they are exempted from providing the relevant paper proof. For short-term family reunion visas, a declaration of kinship by the inviter can replace the proof of kinship.

New Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card

The NIA has announced that the new version of the Foreign Permanent Residence Identity Card, also known as the “Five-Star Card”, has been officially put into use from 1 December 2023. The updated Five-Star Card features an optimised information storage method, incorporates advanced anti-counterfeiting technology, and offers enhanced personal information protection and data security.

The Five-Star Card is a legal identity document issued by the NIA to foreigners who meet the criteria for permanent residence in China. This card can be used independently as a personal identity document, eliminating the need for cardholders to present their foreign passports in most situations where identity verification is required.

At present, foreign permanent residents in China can use their Five-Star Card to conveniently purchase flight and train tickets, check into hotels, handle financial services such as banking, securities, and foreign exchange, register for communication services, including mobile phone and broadband, and handle tax, social insurance, property registration, public security and traffic management, customs, and other government services. They can also easily register and use internet platforms such as Alipay, WeChat, and JD.com.

On a related note, the Ministry of Commerce has issued the Guide for Foreign Business Personnel Working and Living in China (2024 Edition) (the Guide). This document serves as a comprehensive guide for foreign nationals who reside or work in China for extended periods. The Guide is divided into four sections: Precautions, Daily Life Services, Residency Services in China, and Relevant Social Services.

The Guide reminds foreign nationals to register their temporary accommodations upon arrival in China. It provides clear instructions on how to handle or use services such as SIM cards, bank cards, mobile payments, foreign currency exchange, transportation, and accommodation. Furthermore, it offers a summary of relevant policies on social insurance and individual income tax payments for foreign individuals carrying on business in China.

Key Takeaways

We anticipate that China will continue to broaden its visa-free arrangement and preferential visa policies. Additionally, more measures to facilitate business travel for international visitors and foreign residents will likely be introduced. These developments are particularly beneficial for multinational companies operating in China, as they will ease the administrative processes around business trips, foster cross-border exchanges, and simplify relocation procedures for staff.

 


中国:出入境与移民政策更新

中国相关部门近几个月颁布了一系列移民新政,从开放免签入境到启用新版永居证,旨在进一步促进贸易、旅游与国际交流。本次更新对这些新政策的要点进行了总结。

签证政策

互免签证

中国与新加坡达成协定,自2024年2月9日起双方公民可免签入境对方国家停留不超过30日。该政策适用于两国旅游、探亲或商务出差的持普通护照人员。

中国与泰国也达成类似协定,自2024年3月1日起,双方公民可免签入境对方国家单次停留不超过30日(每180日累计停留不超过90日)。该政策适用于中方持公务普通护照、普通护照人员和泰方持普通护照人员。

至此,中国同包括泰国、新加坡、马尔代夫、阿联酋在内的23个国家实现全面互免签证。

单方面免签

自2023年12月1日起至2024年11月30日,中国对法国、德国、意大利、荷兰、西班牙、马来西亚等六个国家试行单方面免签政策。这些国家持有普通护照的公民来华经商、旅游观光、探亲访友和过境不超过15天,可免签入境。

除此以外,中国还宣布将给予瑞士和爱尔兰单方面免签的待遇。

作为回应,马来西亚宣布自2023年12月1日起至2024年12月31日,中国公民可免签入境马来西亚停留不超过30天。


便利国际旅客来华的新措施

为便利国际旅客来华经商、学习、旅游,国家移民局自2024年1月11日起施行五项新措施,包括:

  1. 第一,放宽来华外籍人员申办口岸签证条件。急需来华从事商贸合作、投资创业、探望亲属及处理私人事务等非外交、公务活动的外籍人员,可在到达时凭邀请函件等相关证明材料向口岸签证机关申办口岸签证入境。
  2. 第二,枢纽空港口岸24小时直接过境。外籍人员可在九个国际机场享受24小时直接过境免办边检手续的政策。这九个机场包括:北京首都、北京大兴、上海浦东、杭州萧山、厦门高崎、广州白云、深圳宝安、成都天府和西安咸阳。这意味着持24小时内国际联程机票的出入境旅客,经上述任一机场过境前往第三国或地区,可以免办边检手续,直接免签过境。
  3. 第三,就近办理签证延期换发补发。短期来华从事非外交、公务活动的外籍人员,有正当合理事由需继续在华停留的,可就近向停留地公安机关申请签证延期换发补发。
  4. 第四,多次出入境可申办再入境签证。在华外籍人员因正当合理事由需多次出入境的,可凭邀请函件等相关证明材料,向公安机关出申请换发多次入境有效签证。
  5. 第五,简化签证申办手续。外籍人员申办签证证件的程序得到了简化。如外籍人员的住宿登记记录、企业营业执照等信息可以通过信息共享进行查询,则可免予查验相关纸质证明材料。在华外籍人员办理亲属短期探亲团聚类签证的,可凭借邀请人亲属关系声明替代亲属关系证明。


新版外国人永久居留身份证

国家移民局宣布自2023年12月1日起正式启用新版外国人永久居留身份证,又名“五星卡”。新版五星卡优化了证件信息存储方式,采用了更为先进的防伪技术,增强了个人信息保护和数据安全性。

五星卡是国家移民管理局对符合条件的外国人批准其在境内永久居留后,为其签发的法定身份证件。该卡作为个人身份证件可单独使用,持卡人在绝大多数需要证明个人身份的场合无须再出示其外国护照。

目前,在华永居外籍人员持五星卡可以便利购买飞机票、火车票,办理宾馆旅店入住手续,办理银行、证券、外汇等金融业务,办理移动电话和宽带入网等通信业务,办理税务、社保、财产登记、公安交管、海关等政务服务事项,并在支付宝、微信、京东等互联网平台便利注册使用。

相关地,商务部发布了《外国商务人士在华工作生活指引(2024年版)》(“《指引》”),为来华长期生活、工作的外籍人士提供必要的生活指南。《指引》分为注意事项、日常生活服务、在华停居留服务、相关社会服务四个部分。

《指引》提醒外籍人员来华后办理临时住宿登记,明确了通信卡、银行卡、移动支付、外汇兑换、交通出行、住宿等方面服务的办理或使用方式,还特别对外国商务人士在华缴纳社保、个税的相关政策进行了总结。


要点总结

我们预计中国将继续扩大免签安排和优惠签证政策。此外,便利国际旅客和外国居民在华进行商务活动的措施也可能将越来越多。这些变化对在中国开展业务的跨国公司尤其有利,因为它们将简化商务旅行程序,促进跨境交流,并简化员工迁移的手续。

 

Key Contacts

Fatim Jumabhoy
Fatim Jumabhoy
Managing Partner
+65 6868 9822
Prawidha Murti
Prawidha Murti
Partner, HBT, Jakarta
+62 21 3973 6108
Nonnabhat Paiboon
Nonnabhat Paiboon
Partner
+66 2857 3834
Gillian Miao
Gillian Miao
Counsel, Kewei
+86 21 2322 2325
Veronica So
Veronica So
Senior Associate
+852 21014107
Nurul Ayu Fajarani
Nurul Ayu Fajarani
Associate
+ 65 6868 8056

Disclaimer

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP has a Formal Law Alliance (FLA) with Singapore law firm Prolegis LLC, which provides clients with access to Singapore law advice from Prolegis. The FLA in the name of Herbert Smith Freehills Prolegis allows the two firms to deliver a complementary and seamless legal service.