China Introduces and Expands on Policies Promoting Foreign Visitors

July 10, 2024

The Chinese government on July 10, 2024 implemented its first-ever mainland travel permit for non-Chinese permanent residents of Hong Kong and Macau. Additionally, the government on July 1, 2024 expanded the flexible visa policies it first implemented in December 2023, which allow qualifying foreigners access to mainland China for up to 15 days visa-free. These efforts serve to promote China’s people-to-people exchanges with overseas countries.

Following the global economic downturn, China has shown a strong desire to strengthen exchanges and collaborations between Chinese and foreign nationals.

Inaugural Mainland China Travel Permit for Non-Chinese Hong Kong or Macau Permanent Residents

On June 28, 2024, the National Immigration Administration of China announced a new policy allowing non-Chinese permanent residents of Hong Kong or Macau to apply for a mainland China travel permit, effective July 10. The Mainland China Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents allows holders to travel to China for the purpose of investment, exchange, business, tourism, and visiting relatives and friends.

This is a ground-breaking development, as it is the first time that the Chinese government has offered such travel permits to non-Chinese citizens. Traditionally, only Hong Kong and Macau permanent residents with Chinese nationality could apply for the Mainland China Travel Permit, commonly known as the Homeland Return Permit/Card. Hong Kong and Macau permanent residents who are non-Chinese citizens are required to apply for an appropriate China visa to travel to mainland China, unless they are exempted under one of the available visa-free schemes.

Applications for this new Mainland China Travel Permit for non-Chinese citizens should be submitted through China Travel Service (Holdings) Hong Kong Ltd. in Hong Kong and China Travel Service (Macau) Ltd. in Macau. Once issued, the permit is valid for five years and allows a stay of up to 90 days per entry.

The main differences between this new permit for non-Chinese citizens and the traditional Homeland Return Permit/Card are the validity of the permit, length of stay, and permissible activities in China. If the non-Chinese citizens intend to work, study, or undertake news-coverage activities in China, they are still required to follow standard immigration procedures and apply for an appropriate visa or permit.

Visa-Free Policy for Nationals of 15 Countries

From December 2023 through July 1, China has implemented unilateral visa-free policies for foreign visitors from 15 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland. Visitors from these countries, including minors, with a valid passport are exempted from obtaining a Chinese visa if they are visiting mainland China for up to 15 days for business, tourism, a reunion with family or friends, or transit purposes.

Visa-Free Visiting Requirements

Travelers are not required to notify the Chinese embassies or consulates before their travel. However, it is recommended that they carry documents proving the purpose of their visit (e.g., flight itineraries, hotel reservations, invitation letters) when entering mainland China.

If the travelers are expecting to stay in China for more than 15 days, they should apply for an appropriate visa. If already in China, they can apply to extend their visa-free stay at a local Public Security Bureau with relevant supporting documents. In-county extensions of stay are highly discretionary and only granted in exceptional circumstances, such as in the event of a medical emergency.

While the visa-free policy does apply to business trips, in-country employment or work is not permitted. Foreign nationals must apply for an appropriate work permit and residence permit if they need to work in China.

The visa-free schemes for nationals of the 15 countries mentioned above are expected to be in force until December 31, 2025.


If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following:

Vivien Yu (Hong Kong)