Sunday, July 14, 2024

Australians can now travel visa-free to China. Here’s what you need to know

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Chinese Premier Li Qiang announced the new agreement after a meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Canberra last week.
Currently, Australians must apply for a $110 single-entry visa to visit China, while a one-year multiple entry visa of the same type costs about $230.
But what are some of the finer details of the visa-waiver scheme for Australian travellers who want to extend their visa beyond 15 days or travel to China’s far west such as Tibet and Xinjiang province?
There are 14 countries that currently benefit from having the visa-waiver scheme with China, including New Zealand.
China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the scheme will begin on July 1 to December 31, 2025, but further details have not been made announced.
Jiangsu Provincial Department of Cultural and Tourism’s Eva Zheng, based in Melbourne, promotes China tourism to Australians and New Zealanders.

She explained some of the visa changes to SBS Chinese.

What does it mean travellers can do in China?

Ordinary Australian passport holders will be able to enter China without a visa for purposes such as business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends, and transiting.
They can’t be studying, getting paid for any type of employment (such as consultancy work, gigs or any professional performance before a paying audience), working as foreign press or for other information media on the visa.
The move aligns China’s commitments to boosting foreign capital and facilitating procedures for foreigners to go to China for work, study, and travel as stated in China’s .

“The visa-free policy will promote trade cooperation with mutual country partners. On the other hand, it will allow foreign tourists to come to China and see for themselves, the country’s changes and developments,” Zheng said.

Can travellers land at an airport in mainland China with just their passport?

Yes, they can arrive with just a passport in hand. There’s no need to apply for anything beforehand.
Their passport should have at least six months of validity left before it expires, according to the Chinese embassy .
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Melbourne-based Eva Zheng of Jiangsu Provincial Department of Cultural and Tourism promotes China tourism to Australians and New Zealanders. Source: SBS

Unlike previous situations, Zheng said travellers will not need to provide proof of hotel bookings.

“This is no longer required under the visa-free travel policy,” Zheng said.
“People travelling for business used to have to show the visa office an invitation letter, flight and accommodation bookings. Once the scheme starts, this won’t be needed either.”

A return ticket is not required to be shown upon arrival.

What if Australian passport holders want to go to China for work?

They would not be able to go under the visa-free policy. If they are a DJ, musician or consultant and get paid outside China, they will not be able get into China on this visa.

“This visa is not for working, studying or journalism purposes,” Zheng said.

Does the 15 days count from the day of arrival in or departure to China?

It counts from the first day of arrival to mainland China. Travellers will have until midnight on the 15th day to depart.

How many times can Australians enter China using the visa-free stays?

As many times as they want.

Can travellers take children or can they travel to China themselves under the visa-free policy

Yes, they also benefit.

What if they travel as a group?

Yes, if the group meet the requirements under the visa-free policy. It’s the same as if they were travelling as an individual.

What if Australians want to extend their stays whilst in mainland China?

To stay longer, they’d have to visit the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau that handles all visa applications for foreigners and locals travelling abroad.
But processing times for the extension can take up to seven days so it’s probably worth the hassle of applying for a fee-based 30-day tourist visa a couple of months before their planned travel date to China. The Chinese visa is usually valid for three months from the issue date.
Alternatively, they can do the ‘infamous’ visa run to Hong Kong or Macau, or another nearby city outside mainland China, to reset the visa start date.
Zheng has also confirmed with SBS Chinese that the return date can be the same as the departure date from the mainland.
Fore more information, she said calls can be made to the on 12367 within the mainland. English-speaking operators are available.

Are there any restrictions on where I can travel? Can I go to Tibet and Xinjiang?

Those places are open to foreigners, but some travel restrictions will still apply.
Foreigners aren’t able to gain entry into Tibet unless they book a tour package through a travel agency that is able to help them apply for a Tibet Entry Permit granted by the Tibet Travel Administration.
As for Xinjiang, foreigners do not need a special permit for travel as part of a permitted tour group. But SBS Chinese understands that freedom of movement is more restricted compared to most other provinces in China.

Some hotels cannot cater for foreigners so it’s best to check the ones that do.

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