In our Spotlight on APAC series we roundup the latest developments across the Asia Pacific region. In this post we look at business visitors to China and options for short-term travellers.
Short-term transfer to China
When is a visa required for short term business travel?
Foreign nationals entering China on a short-term basis primarily for business must obtain an M business visa with the following exceptions:
- Singapore and Brunei nationals may enter and stay in China for up to 15 days;
- Nationals of The Bahamas, Ecuador, Fiji, Grenada, Serbia, Seychelles, Tonga and Mauritius may enter and stay in China for up to 30 days; and
- holders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card with pre-cleared entry into China may enter and stay in China for up to 60 or 90 days.
How to obtain the Short Term M Visa
Foreign nationals should submit their M visa applications to a Chinese Consulate, embassy or visa office abroad which has jurisdiction over their place of residence. The general processing time is around one week and expedited service may be available for an additional fee.
What activities can be carried out as a Business Visitor to China?
M business visa holders may engage in non-productive general business activities such as attending business meetings and non client facing activity such as signing documents. Essentially the activities undertaken should not amount to anything considered to be substantive, productive, profit making work.
The length of stay should be in accordance with the M visa, which may be valid for admission periods between 30 to 90 days. As business visitors are not working in China, their payroll should remain with the overseas employer.
While there are no official restrictions on the number of days business visitors may spend in China during the validity of their M visas, as a general rule, it is best practice to limit the total time spent in China to under 90 days to avoid any potential questioning of whether the business visitors are engaging in productive work. Although the list of permitted activities as a business visitor is not exhaustive, observing the general guidance both as to permitted activities and time spent in China should avoid questions from the authorities in China.
Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?
China does not have a specific training visa category.
Depending on the foreign national’s specific circumstances, an M business visa or a work permit may be used. When assessing the appropriate visa option, consideration should be given to the following:
- whether the foreign national is giving or receiving training;
- the mode of the training (eg, in-person or remote, classroom type or hands-on);
- the length of the training; and
- if the foreign national is giving training, whether the training is remunerated.
It is important to take guidance and assess matters on a case by case basis before any travel to China.
Is a Transit Visa necessary to travel through China?
All foreign nationals travelling to a third country or region through China by plane, ship or train may stay up to 24 hours in China without a visa. A transit visa or temporary stay permit is not required if the foreign nationals will remain in the transit area.
How are these obtained?
Foreign nationals who wish to remain in China for more than 24 hours require a transit visa unless they are visa-free nationals or covered by the 72-hour or 144-hour visa-free transit policies. Transit visa applications should be submitted to a Chinese Consulate, embassy or visa office abroad that has jurisdiction over the foreign nationals’ place of residence. During the transit period, foreign nationals can only travel within the approved administrative area(s).
We can provide further information on who is a visa free national.
Availability of visa waiver and fast-track entry programmes
Nationals of Singapore and Brunei may enter and stay in China for up to 15 days without applying for a visa for the purpose of business, tourism, visiting relatives or friends, or transit.
Nationals of The Bahamas, Ecuador, Fiji, Grenada, Serbia, Seychelles, Tonga and Mauritius may enter and stay in China for up to 30 days without applying for a visa for the purpose of business, tourism, visiting relatives or friends, or transit.
Holders of the APEC Business Travel Card with pre-cleared entry into China may enter China without a visa.