China / Government

Visa rules haven't hurt US demand

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-07 01:30

The number of Americans applying for visas to China has remained flat since the country revised its rules for visitors from the United States.

"We have seen a stable number of applications since the launch of new visa rules on Aug 1," Chen Xiongfeng, a visa-affairs officer at the Chinese embassy in Washington, told China Daily this week.

"The feedback from visa officers is positive."

Chen said the new rules are in line with other countries' procedures and require Americans applying for Chinese tourist or business visas to submit a letter from an authorized tourism agency, a company or an individual inviting them to China.

The letter should include personal information of both host and invitee, along with information such as the purpose of the visit, arrival and departure dates, places to be visited and who will pay for the visitor's accommodations in China.

Applicants also can, but aren't required to, submit materials including a copy of their round-trip ticket or hotel reservation, Chen said.

The visa officer spoke in response to media reports which had expressed worries that the changed visa rules could jeopardize the country's goal to become world's top tourism destination.

About 2.12 million US-based visa holders visited China last year, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

"The new, complicated rules will impede China's tourism industry," a manager of a Chinese-visa service provider in California said. He declined to be named.

Tim Caswell, a Californian, received a visa to China at the end of August.

"My biggest problem was that the nearest consulate from my house is 300 miles away and doesn't accept mailed applications," he said.

But for about $400, Caswell was able to use an outside service to process a rush order through the mail to get his visa from China's consulate in San Francisco in two days.

Chen blamed the misperception over the new rules on concerns expressed by travel agents.

Under the new visa rules, visiting China has become less burdensome for Chinese-Americans and their families.

According to Chen, Chinese expatriates' spouses and children with US citizenship, as well as Chinese-Americans born in the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao, and their spouses and children, are eligible to apply for long-term, multiple-entry visas that are valid for two years.

Visa officers will determine if these applicants should receive a long-term visa based on their individual cases.

"That's good news for me, and I have booked a ticket to China in October," Ed Wang, a Chinese-American who frequently flies between San Francisco and Hong Kong, told China Daily.

Under an agreement between Beijing and Washington on the provision of business and tourism visas, US citizens or permanent residents can apply for a single or double-entry visa valid for one year or a multiple entry visa valid for six months or a year.

China is in talks with the US about possibly extending the period of visa validity, Chen said.

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