Introduction
Quarantine requirement
PCR test requirement
Different provincial policies
Inbound travellers
Changes to entry visas


Introduction

Recently, the Chinese government and overseas embassies announced a series of relaxed policies against covid-19. Further relief to China's covid-19 control measures is expected shortly.

In October, the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission and five other departments released several joint policies with the aim to:

facilitate the international business personnel, on the premise of prevention and control of covid-19 . . . the entry and exit of senior executives, technical personnel and their families of multinational companies and foreign-invested enterprises. All localities should make good use of the "Fast track" for personnel exchanges between China and foreign countries, and further clarify the standards and procedures in light of local realities, so as to provide convenience for foreign personnel to come to China.

Soon after the National Health Commission released the 20 Measures on Covid Control on 11 November 2022, signalling the central government's intention to loosen the zero covid-19 policy that had lasted for the previous three years, the national authority issued a further 10 Measures on 7 December 2022, with more specific provisions to move forward with loosened restrictions on covid-19 control.

Quarantine requirement

Under the 10 Measures, centralised quarantine is no longer required for mild and asymptomatic cases or close contacts. People are now allowed to take at-home quarantine. For close contacts, the quarantine period has been shortened to five days. Once the close contact has tested negative via a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, they will be released from quarantine.

Under the effective policies issued in 2020, employers are required to issue full pay (rather than sick leave pay) to employees under quarantine who are infected or are close contacts (whether in home quarantine or central quarantine). Although the shortened period of quarantine may be favourable to employers, the employer may still experience increased costs due to the expected rise of infections.

PCR test requirement

Under the 10 Measures, with the exception of nursing homes, welfare homes, medical institutions, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools and other designated locations, a negative PCR test result is no longer required for entering public venues, including office buildings or factories. Also, apart from those designated locations, showing and checking health codes is also no longer required.

Since infections may spread among employees and cause serious impacts on production, employers may still want to check the PCR test or the health code of employees before they enter work facilities, especially for labour-intensive industries. Whether an employer is still allowed to require employees to take PCR tests or show a health code or whether such requests could trigger privacy or anti-discrimination issues are still unclear under the 10 Measures and other current policies.

Different provincial policies

Under the 10 Measures, local authorities are still authorised to adopt specific prevention and control measures on covid-19 at significant institutions, large corporations and other designated locations. Under such provisions and according to previous practical experience, local provincial and municipal governments may still adopt different policies and some cities' policies of loosening current restrictions may be behind the relevant local policies in Beijing or Shanghai. National companies must study previous local policies to establish what they are recommended to do.

It seems that employers will still meet uncertainties and unpredictable problems during future operations and face a different but still challenging environment. Employers are recommended to keep close attention to newly released policies and adjust their employment policies accordingly.

Inbound travellers

Based on the policies and requirements effective as of 8 December 2022, the following rules apply for inbound travellers coming to China:

  • The quarantine period has been reduced to eight days, comprising five days of centralised quarantine at a designated hotel and three days of home isolation. During this period, the health code management will be conducted by the government, and travellers are not allowed to go out. Incoming travellers need not further quarantine at their final destination once they finish quarantine at their first point of entry. The government will arrange a PCR test on the first, second, third and fifth days during centralised quarantine, and also on the first and third days during home isolation.
  • Inbound travellers now only need one instead of two PCR test results taken within 48 hours before boarding. For inbound travellers who have had a history of infection, suspected symptoms, "indeterminate" test results, a "grey area" cycle threshold value on a PCR test, or who have been close contacts, the same requirements shall apply. There is no longer a need for additional PCR test reports, self-health-monitoring or self-isolation. Only one PCR test with a negative result within 48 hours before boarding the final flight to China is required to apply for a health declaration certificate (HDC).
  • Inbound travellers may choose to take the PCR test at the place of departure or the place of transit. There is no need to take another PCR test or apply for another HDC when transiting.
  • The circuit breaker policy has now been lifted.
  • The quarantine requirements may be exempted for inbound travellers if they enter for certain essential business activities or are sportspeople entering China to attend training or matches. These people will be transported in special vehicles and brought into a closed loop from the time they enter the airport to when they leave China. During their stay in China, they are not allowed to enter the public beyond the closed loop.

Changes to entry visas

Invitation letter is no longer required
Since June 2022, Chinese embassies and consulates abroad have started to remove the invitation (PU) letter requirement for business (M/F) visa and work (Z) visa applications.

Applicants applying for an M/F/Z visa to enter China for a short-term visit or long-term employment in fields such as economy and trade, education, science and technology, sports, and culture are no longer required to submit a PU letter issued by a competent department in China.

APEC card, student visa or permit holders
As of 24 August 2022, the Chinese embassies and consulates in many countries have announced that foreigners who are holding valid Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) business travel cards and study residence permits can enter China without a new visa application. Also, Chinese consular posts have resumed issuing student visas to foreign students.

Under the current visa policy, entry may be granted to those who:

  • are travelling for business, employment and study purposes, as well as the accompanying family members of such people;
  • have a valid Chinese residence permit for work, personal matters, reunion or study purposes;
  • have a valid Chinese permanent residence card, as well as their accompanying family members;
  • are a Chinese citizen's foreign family members;
  • have a valid confirmation letter for "high-level foreign talents", along with their accompanying family members;
  • wish to enter for urgent humanitarian needs; and
  • have a valid diplomatic, official, courtesy or C visa.

However:

  • tourist (L) visa application is still suspended; and
  • entry is still suspended for foreigners holding visas issued before 28 March 2020.

For further information on this topic please contact Jing Wu or Yi Zhu at JunHe by email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The JunHe website can be accessed at www.junhe.com.