Briefing on Law and Regulations on the Entry and Exit of Aliens
On August 27, 2013, Ms. Hua Chunying, Deputy Director General of the Department of Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a briefing for Chinese and foreign media. Ms. Zhao Hui, Deputy Director General of the Department of Politics and Laws of Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, Mr. Cui Aimin, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Consular Affairs of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Qu Yunhai, Deputy Director of Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security were invited to brief the new Exit and Entry Administration Law of the people's Republic of China and Regulations on Entry and Exit of Aliens of the People's Republic of China. They also took questions from the journalists on various aspects, including visas, the approval duration of residence permit, retained passport during the period of review and approval, biometric information collection and visas for foreign talents. The main questions and answers are as follows:
Q: Compared with the original law and regulations, what are the adjustments in the new law and the new regulations that will come into force on September 1st? What are the impacts on foreign nationals?
Cui: The new law and regulations involve a lot of articles on the management and service for foreigners. First of all, China adheres to the policy of opening-up. The important objectives of formulating the new law is to promote foreign exchanges and opening-up. We welcome foreign friends to engage in commerce and trade, tourism and other activities in China, and we will continue to provide convenience on visa as we did in the past.
The new law further improves the systems of entry visas for foreigners. In term of visa category, the new law continues the previous classification, that is, visas are categorized as diplomatic visa, courtesy visa, official visa and ordinary visa. In order to indicate more precisely a foreigner's reason for entering China and provide more detailed service, the new law adds some visa types in the ordinary visa category on the basis of the current eight visa types. The "F" and "L" visa categories were divided into "M", "Q" and "S" visa categories, respectively for business and trade personnel, foreigners who visit their Chinese family members, and foreigners who deal with other private affairs in China. Meanwhile, the addition of visa category "R" will be issued to foreign professionals who are highly skilled or whose skill is urgently needed in China. In term of the duration of stay, the new law stipulates that the longest duration of stay of a Chinese Visa shall be 180 days. Compared with many other countries, 180 days is quite long. In practice, the duration of stay that issued by the visa authorities is usually longer than the applicants' expectation, which will better meet the actual needs of foreigners when they work and reside in China.
Compared with the practices before the adoption of the new law, there will no change regarding the processing time as well as the approval procedures for visas in Chinese visa authorities abroad. In most case, a visa will isssued 阴after 4 working days upon application; Foreigners can apply for a visa not only in his own country, but also in a third country or region. They can either apply in person or through travel agencies. Visa applications can also be submitted by the applicants' relatives and friends. These practices are more convenient than that of most countries in the world. They are also in line with the actual needs of China's reform and opening up, as well as economic and social development.
In addition, in order to make the new law and visa policy known to both Chinese and foreigners, we have made introduction and detailed explanations on newspapers and websites. We have also held symposiums and asked our visa-issuing authorities aborad to publish the new laws, regulations and instructions on their websites and visa offices. The instructions include the documents needed and fees for differnt types of visas. The application forms are also designed in various languages.
Qu: According to the need of the current development, a new concept of social management is introduced to the new law, which focuses on improvement of service and enhancement of management. That is to improve and innovate the service and management system for foreigners and to lay a sound legal foundation for the administration of entry and exit of foreigners under the new circumstances.
The new law and regulations fully reflect the aim of the legislation, that is, to further facilitate the entry and exit of foreign nationals and to promote China's opening-up and exchanges with the outside world. Compared with the old law and regulations, they provide more convenient measures and emphasize more on service. According to the provisions of the new law and regulations, the public security organs supplement and improve the several measures related to the entry and exit of foreigners. The first is to expand the port visa coverage. The new law retains the port visa system at the legal level. 10 kinds of applications for port visas listed by the "Implementation Rules for Law on the Entry & Exit of Aliens" were integrated and a new provision was added for travel agencies to apply for group tourist visas for organized foreign travel groups. The second is to relax the provisions on visa exemption for transits. The new law relaxes the policies on visa exemption for transits. Visa exemption can not only be done at airports, but also at land and sea ports. It also authorizes the State Council to approve visa exemption policies for more than 24-hour in specific zones. The third is to provide convenience for temporary entry. The new law integrates and improves foreigners' temporary entry system under specific circumstances. It stipulates that foreign crew members and their accompanying family members who enter the city where the port is, visa-exempted transit travelers who need to leave the port and foreigners who need to enter China due to force majeure or other urgent reasons, can apply for temporary entry. The fourth is to provide convenience on extension of visa. The new law stipulates that foreigners who need to extend their stay in China may submit an extension application to the local exit-entry administration department of the public security organs above county-level at least 7 days prior to expiration. The application will be approved if the reason for extension is reasonable and sufficient. The fifth is to provide convenience on changing the reason of stay and entry. The new law stipulates that foreigners who enter China with a visa can apply for changing visa status at the local exit-entry administration department of the public security organs above county-level if they could change the reason of stay or enjoy convenience of entry in accordance with relevant state regulations. The sixth is to provide convenience on change from stay to residence. The new law stipulates that the foreign talent and investors in line with relevant state regulations or foreigners who need to change from stay to residence due to humanitarian reasons can apply for a residence permit, which provides convenience for foreigners' residence in China.
With the basic aim to promote foreign exchanges and facilitate personnel exchanges and catering to the current situation, the new law and regulations further standardize the management of foreigners' stay and residence, improve the conditions and procedures of the law enforcement and service for the entry of foreigners; and enhance the investigation and punishment measures against illegal entry, illegal residence, illegal employment and other violations of the exit-entry law and regulations. All of this will further standardize the administration of the entry and exit of aliens, and maintain better order in this regard.
Q: As far as I know, the new regulations might affect the extension of foreign journalists' residence permit. According to the new regulations that will come into force on September 1, the time needed to review and approve the foreign journalists' application and extension of their residence permits will increase from 5 days to 15 days, which will defiinately affect our work. Because during that period, our passports might be held at the approval authorities. Please explain more on this provision of the new law concering the extension of residence permit. Will it be possible to conduct the review of the extention of residence permit without affecting our work?
Qu: The original exit-entry law and regulations didn't stipulate the time limit for the public security organs to review and approve the residence permit. The new law and regulations stipulate that the time limit is 15 working days, but it is the maximum time limit. The public security organs will expedite this process and provide relevant convenience according to the applicant's requirement in practice.
The new law and regulations stipulate that foreigners should submit their own passports when applying for visa and permit of stay and residence. The public security organs will verify the authenticity and validity of the foreign passport after accepting the application. Therefore, we will normally keep the passports during the process of review and approval. However, according to regulations, the applicant can legally stay or reside in China with the receipt of acceptance during the period while the applicant's passport is retained. We have noticed In our everyday work that some foreign friends complained about the trouble for them to travel within the mainland of China or exit and enter the mainland of China having their passports retained. We have informed the local public security organs that if the applicants have actual needs to travel with their passports during the process of review and approval, the public security organs can return the passport to the applicant and keep a copy of the passport after confirming the authenticity and validity of the passport. The applicant should return the passport to the exit-entry administration department of the public security organs once the trip or the temporary coverage assignments of foreign journalists is over, so that relevant permit can be dealt with and issued in time.
Hua: I would like to add that we understand your concerns about the extension of press card of resident correspondents and are willing to provide as much convenience as possible for your work and life in China. To leave more time for you to deal with the extension of your residence permit, starting from this year, the International Press Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will start to accept the extension of press card of resident foreign correspondent from early November instead of mid November. The specific arrangement will be announced by the International Press Center at the appointed time.
Q: The new law and regulations stipulate that the time limit for the public security organs to deal with residence permit is 15 working days. What are you specific considerations?
Qu: As a foreigner's reason for long-term stay in China need be reviewed comprehensively, the new law and regulations stipulate that the time limit for the public security organs to deal with residence permit is 15 working days. However, as I said earlier, it is only the longest time needed. The public security organs will expedite this process and provide relevant convenience according to the applicant's requirement in practice.
Q: Allegedly, starting from 2014, a new measure will be taken for visa applications done by travel agencies, which requires the applicants to personally go to the visa center of the Chinese embassies to renew their visas as fingerprints and photos will be needed. Please confirm it and explain the reason to do so.
Cui: As for the administration of exit and entry such as reviewing and issuing visas, collecting and storing information on human biological characteristics, including fingerprints and making comparisons are of positive significance to the screening of the identity of personnel entering and exiting the country, strengthening entry and exit administration and safeguarding national security and social stability. At present, in accordance with relevant provisions of the law and referring to practices of other countries, the relevant departments of the Chinese government are considering collecting information on human biological characteristics, including fingerprints of the entry and exit personnel in exit-entry activities, such as reviewing and issuing visa. If biological visa practices are implemented, then in most case, the applicant has to go to Chinese visa offices abroad in person to apply for a visa. However, if there are special agreements between the two sides, including agreement on visa or fingerprints exemption, then the applicant does not necessarily have to go to our visa offices in person. Before we adopt relevant biological visa practices, we will still maintain the current practice. The applicants from most countries can apply in person or have their application submitted by their relatives and friends, companies or travel agencies. You mentioned that China will start the biological visa practice from 2014. I don't know where the news comes from. As far as I know, there is no specific time for the implementaion of such practice.
Q: We heard that the new law and regulations put new restrictions on the stay and residence of family members of foreign nationals in China. Can you elaborate on that?
Cui: In the new law and regulations, we have further segmented F Visa and L Visa, and have added M, S and Q visas. Q Visa is issued to foreigners coming to China on family visit and S Visa is issued to foreigners coming to China on private affairs. Although Q and S visas both cover family visits, their visiting subjects are different, so the regulations have made a distinction between them. In general, after the new law and regulations are promulgated and implemented, the procedure will become more convenient for foreigners to come to China to visit their families.
Qu: In addition, the exit-entry administration department of the public security organs could extend visas upon request for foreigners entering China with a valid visa as long as the reason for extension is sufficient and reasonable. There is also no restrictions on the types of visas for extension. The exit-entry administration department of the public security organs can also issuet two types of residence permit to address your concerns. One is the residence permit for family reunion which is mainly for family members of Chinese citizens who reside in China, family members of foreigners with permanent residence qualification in China and other personnel, including children, who need to reside in China for foster care or other reasons. The other type is the residence permit for private affairs, which is mainly for foreigners on long-term family visits and spouse, parents, including parents of the spouse and children under 18 years old of foreigners who reside in China for work, study or other matters.
Q: You mentioned that when applying for the extension of residence permit, our passports are likely to be kept for 15 days at the most and we will have a receipt after the deposit of the passport, so can foreign business people and journalists travel with the receipt within the territory of China, such as traveling by plane?
Qu: The public security organs will issue a receipt for retaining the passport. The period of validity of the receipt is the same as the time limit for reviewing the residence permit. According to the regulations, foreigners can legally stay and reside in China with the receipt. If you need to travel within the mainland of China or exit and enter the mainland of China, you can get your passport back temporarily and return it to the exit-entry administration department of the public security organs once the trip or the temporary coverage assignments of foreign journalists is over, so that relevant permits can be dealt with and issued in time. Many foreign friends are very concerned about whether it will take 15 working days for any residence permit to be issued. Here I would like to reiterate that 15 working days is just the maximum time limit stipulated by the law. We have already made a special request to the exit-entry administration department of the public security organs nationwide to help address the reasonable concerns of applicants and provide good service to them.
Q: I have a question about R Visa. Many people are very concerned about the type of visa for introducing high-level talents. There are many arguments on what qualifications are needed for this type of Visa. What are the considerations of the department in charge in term of the timetable?
Cui: R visa is a new type of visa and is mainly issued to high-level talents and urgently needed specialists that are introduced to the country according to the national talent introduction strategy. At present, Chinese visa agencies stationed abroad have already been offering convenience for visa applications from high-level foreign talents and urgently needed specialists who are imported by the China Government. With the implementation of the new law and regulations, in the future, visas for high-level foreign talents and urgently needed specialists will fall into the R visa category. Chinese visa agencies stationed abroad will review and issue R Visa based on the notifications from domestic departments in charge. We are still working on the specific methods and measure.