BCECC Newsletter: Update about travel restrictions to China (for Belgian citizens)

Starting from 15 March 2021, the Chinese government announced new ‘relaxations’ for foreigners to enter China. Foreigners from dozens of countries, including Belgium, are able to enter China again, but only if they have been inoculated against Covid-19 with a Chinese-made vaccine. This can be either the full two-dose course of a vaccine or a single-dose vaccine at least 14 days prior to the application.

Additional alleviations have been announced as follows:

  • Foreign nationals and their family members visiting mainland China for resuming work and production in various fields no longer need to provide an invitation letter issued by the foreign affairs offices ,the departments of commerce of the provincial governments, or the headquarters of central state-owned enterprises.
  • The scope of applicants eligible for applying for a visa out of emergency humanitarian needs has been expanded as well.
  • And finally, holders of valid APEC business travel cards may apply for the M visa by presenting their original valid APEC business travel card and the invitation letter issued by the inviting party in mainland China.

Nevertheless, quarantine rules still apply. This means that you still need to go into mandatory quarantine in a hotel upon arrival in China, at your own cost. Proof of a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test result and the Health and Travel Record Declaration Form for Visa Application are no longer required.

In short: it remains very difficult for Belgian citizens to travel to China, given the fact that China’s vaccines are not approved in Belgium, nor in many of the countries to which China has re-opened their borders. Furthermore, China does not accept foreign vaccines produced elsewhere, including those approved by the World Health Organization.

Nevertheless, this evolution is a positive sign, since it means that China is – slowly but surely – issuing visa to foreigners again. It is considered to be a first but vital step for China to resume exchanges with foreign travelers again. Since March 2020, it has been almost impossible for Belgian citizens and other foreigners to travel to China, even if they could provide a valid visa or residence permit. The Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) hopes that regular business trips to China will go back to normal soon, as the resumption of business travel and the subsequent trading business is a key driver for global economic recovery.

Foreign countries are starting to negotiate with China on the mutual recognition of vaccination passports. The mutual recognition program with countries that have used Chinese vaccines is a step in the right direction. Hopefully people inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines which are produced by foreign manufacturers will also be included at last. To reach such mutual recognition, however, a pre-certification issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) might be needed to improve the trust different countries have in each others’ vaccines.

In the meantime, the sanitary situation in China has improved significantly. In recent weeks, COVID-19 outbreaks have been very limited in China. The country is ramping up its vaccination program and is administering up to 5 million doses a day. Moreover, as from 29 March 2021, some 1st Tier cities in China have started to include foreigners into the program of getting the domestic COVID-19 vaccine. All strictly voluntary, at the foreigners’ own costs and bearing corresponding risks.

The Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) advises its members to follow the announcements of the Chinese Embassy in Belgium and to take the necessary precautions before deciding to travel to China.

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