New time limits for processing of all visas

Updated: 2013-08-28 01:34

By CAO YIN and ZHAO YINAN (China Daily)

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Foreign Affairs Ministry discusses reducing prices of transactions

Applications for residence visas for foreigners in China should take no more than 15 days to process, the Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday.

The change is part of a new regulation on exit and entry management for foreigners that aims to clarify the processes of checking and approval, to take effect on Sept 1.

The same 15-day time limit will apply also for extensions, changes and replacements of residence visas, while a seven-day time limit will be applied to visa-related applications.

"The 15 working days is the maximum, and we'll make a decision on whether to issue the residence visas to applicants within that time limit," said Qu Yunhai, deputy director of the ministry's Exit-Entry Management Department.

Foreigners applying for a new visa or making changes to an existing one must submit their passports to exit-entry officers, who will then confirm the authenticity of existing visas and check the reasons for staying in the country, according to Xu.

"Such confirmation, checking and investigation will take some time, which is why the new regulation gives the time limit," he explained.

Meanwhile, foreign applicants will be given a receipt that can prove their right to remain or reside in China until their passports are returned to them.

"For those with special circumstances, such as travel, leaving the country or having other emergencies, during the time period, the administrations can send back their passports temporarily. But these applicants must return the passports when their situation comes to an end," he added.

Under the new regulation, administrators should spend no more than seven working days on applications from foreigners for the postponing, changing or replacing of visas.

Cui Aimin, a senior official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specializing in visas, said that China has not canceled the extra fees for foreign nationals applying for urgent business, "but we are discussing the issue of reducing costs and procedures of visa transactions with other countries, such as the United States."

"We also supply visa application forms in various languages, hoping to better serve foreign applicants," he added.

Giving foreigners a receipt as a temporary identity certificate when their passport is not with them has proved helpful in local areas, and so the Ministry of Public Security decided to make it a nationwide requirement, said Liu Guofu, an immigration law professor at Beijing Institute of Technology. However, Liu said there are some aspects of the new policy that need further explanation.

Michela Pacco, 29, an Italian holder of a one-year Z visa (a working visa) that will expire in April 2014, is not worried about the official time limits for visa extension applications, which may be longer than some people have previously had to wait.

"That may be a problem for foreigners traveling a lot overseas. Personally, I am a well-organized person, so if I know in advance it will take longer, I will do my best to organize my trips and my work," said the external affairs officer of an exhibition center in Guangzhou.

However, she complained that handling visa procedures in China has never been easy or fast, citing the example of an Italian friend who waited for almost one month to get his passport back when he renewed his Z visa.

"The new rule won't change the fact that getting visas in China is very stressful for foreigners. We just need to be more patient," she said.

Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou contributed to this story.