With the approval of the “PRC Entry and Exit Administrative Law” and of the relevant implementing regulation, in force from September 1, 2013, China has amended and in some case clarified the previous provisions concerning the entry, permanence and exit of foreigners in its territory.

One of the main novelty is the increase of category of visas that can now be issued: before the new legislation, a foreign citizen that intended entry in China could have chosen between 8 type of visas only, as below listed:

(i) Visa “D” (permanent residence), (ii) Visa “Z” (employment), (iii) Visa “X” (student), (iv) Visa “F” (Business), (v) Visa “L” (tourism), (vi) Visa “G” (transit), (vii) Visa “C” (crew members), and (viii) Visa “J” (journalist).

The new law not only added to above listed type of visas other 4 categories, such as “M”, “Q”, “R” and “S” visas, but has also partly redefined the scope and applicability of some of the original type of visas.

For instance, the “F” visa if the one that, more than any other category, underwent to significant changes in its function. In fact, before the implementation of the new law, all foreign citizens that intended to effect business travel to China should have apply for this type of visa: since the 1st of September, however, in case of business trip, a foreign applicant shall request either a “F” Visa in case of visits without commercial purposes (i.e. to create business connection with potential partners, or to strengthen business relations with existing partners) or the newly added “M” Visa in case of business travel with commercial purposes (i.e. to execute commercial contracts, etc.). For the issuance of either Visas a formal invitation letter from the Chinese partner is in any case required.

“Z” Visa haven’t been changed by the new law, and it shall still be issued to foreign citizens that intend to be employed in China. However, while with the old law the family member of a foreign employee shall also apply to obtain a “Z” Visa in order to visit the family member employed in China, with this new legislation Chinese government instituted the category of Visa “S”, that can be requested by the close family members that intend to visit a foreign citizen that is residing in China for work or study reasons.

In addition to the above, if a foreign citizen intends to visit Chinese close family member (for example, a spouse), the newly created “Q” visa shall be issued: in order to obtain such visa, among other documents, the proof proof of family relation between the foreign and Chinese citizen, and an invitation letter from such Chinese family member shall be submitted.

But the biggest innovation introduced by the law is the creation of the new category of Visa “R”: such visa will be issued to foreign citizens in possession of particularly high qualifications and skills in fields considered strategic by Chinese government. The introduction of such type of visa is in line with the Chinese government’s strategy to attract foreign talents so to speed up and promote the development of the Country.

Finally, another important aspect of the new law focus on penalties for foreign citizens (and, as the case may be, for their employers) that entry or reside in China without a valid visa, or that carry out in China activities not permitted by the visa in their possession (such as for foreign citizens holding student visa that carry out working activities) or for those foreign citizens that that carry out a different working activity than the one for which the “Z” visa has been issued for.

As stated at the beginning of this article, the current provisions have clarified some of the aspects not (or only partially) covered by previous law: however, some gray areas still exsist, such as, for example, the visa required for foreigners that will live in China for a period of stage. It will be very important then to verify the practical implementation of the new law by Chinese authorities to see how such aspects not covered by the legislator will be dealt with.

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