China grants 10-year visas to Canadians

Updated: 2015-03-14 03:41

By LI NA in Toronto and PAUL WELITZKIN in New York(China Daily Canada)

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China grants 10-year visas to Canadians

Xue Bing (right), the Chinese consul general in Toronto, issues the fi rst long-term, multiple-entry visa to Canadian citizen Timothy Mark Hay at the Chinese visa Application Service Centre in Toronto on Monday. The period of validity of Hay's visa is from March 9, 2015, to March 9, 2024. [Photo by Li Na / China Daily]

Canada first kicked off 10-year, multiple-entry visas for travelers from China in February 2014. Now China has returned the favor.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the new arrangement at a press conference at the third session of China's 12th National People's Congress in Beijing on March 8.

The visa will be valid for up to 10 years, but not exceed the validity of applicant's passport. Each stay may not exceed 180 days.

In addition to being valid for a decade, Ed Fast, minister of International Trade for Canada, said it will ease travel, reduce costs and cut down on delays and preparation time for trips to China.

"Multiple-entry visas will greatly benefit Canadians, from businesses to tourists to those visiting family members back in China," Fast said.

Xue Bing, the Chinese Consulate General in Toronto, issued the first long-term, multiple-entry visa to a Canadian citizen at the Chinese visa Application Service Centre in Toronto on Monday.

"I think this regulation will greatly facilitate the movement of people across the two countries," Xue said. "We will benefit from the cooperation and interaction between China and Canada. As time passes, we will further perfect this arrangement."

"The year 2015 marks the 45th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of a strategic partnership between China and Canada. I am confident that this arrangement will certainly promote the bilateral relations to a new level," said Luo Zhaohui, China's ambassador to Canada. "It is great news," said Daniel Cheng, managing director of Canada China Business Council's (CCBC) office in China. "It will reduce costs and cut red-tape in visa application proceedings and pave the way for more Canadian people to visit China."

"China's new arrangement will give more Canadians a better chance to deepen their understanding of China," Cheng said.

Fan Xiaodong, Acting Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver, said that "document requirements for visa applications have not changed," and the processing time is usually four business days.

"This 10-year visa will be of great convenience to over a million Canadians of mainland Chinese origin in Canada and over 300,000 Canadian passport holders residing in Hong Kong who as citizens of Canada require a visa to enter China," Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in China, said in an e-mail.

China issued 230,000 visas to Canadians last year, with 80 percent of them traveling to China for business, tourism or family visits, tourism officials said.

"More than 2,000 people now travel back and forth between the two countries every day, which is the number that traveled per year in the 1970s," said Chris Alexander, minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. "We know the number will go even further as the result of the multiple-entry visa effective today."

"It becomes so much easier for us to travel to China without applying for a visa each time. Definitely, it has a lot of economic benefits for Canadian who do business in Canada," said Ken Ng, chairman of the Federation of Chinese Canadians in Markham. "It's probably one of the best announcements between the both countries on the high level," said Senator Victor Oh, who was one of the delegates on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's third visit to China in November 2014. "I'm sure this announcement is going to make more people on both sides travel now. We look forward to more exchange, more ties, more business and more direct flights between the two countries."

China is a priority market under Canada's Global Markets Action Plan, the government's blueprint for creating jobs and prosperity through exports, as well as Canada's second-largest trading partner, with two-way merchandise trade reaching almost $78 billion in 2014.

Guo Wenlan, an unemployed resident of Toronto, was issued the new visa for 108 months with 120 days of stay at the center. "I plan to study and work in my hometown of Xiamen in the future, I'm very happy to have the visa," Guo told China Daily. Li Wei, a 30-year-old mother who gave birth to her son four years ago in Montreal, said the new visa policy was good news for her son's generation.

"For my son, who is a Canadian citizen, it will be more convenient for him to return to China, visiting relatives and getting to know his cultural roots," she said.

Today 1.5 million people living in Canada trace their heritage back to China. Chinese is the third most spoken language in Canada and China is Canada's leading source country for international students, tourists and other visitors to Canada. Over 100,000 Chinese students study in Canada. From 2006 to 2014, the number of visa applications from Chinese travelers increased by almost 20 percent.

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Wang Ru in Beijing and Maya Liu and Hatty Liu in Vancouver contributed to this story.