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Covid-19: Specific entry possibilities during entry ban to China

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published on 10 June 2020 | reading time approx. 3 minutes

  

​As part of the prevention of a new spread of the covid-19 virus, a comprehensive entry ban for foreigners has been in force in China since 28 March 2020. Although the entry ban is only temporary, it is not yet clear when and under what conditions (for example, for nationals of certain countries) it will be relaxed or lifted.

  

  


However, particularly against the background of economic necessities, China has in the meantime issued regulations that allow the entry of foreigners working as employees in China under certain conditions. An elementary requirement for entry is that the foreigner is "indispensable" for the economy of the country, although "indispensability" is not defined in more detail.

Normal channel

For the entry using the so-called normal channel, the employer must first submit an application to the Foreign Affairs Office (FAO), usually at district level. In particular, the "indispensability" of the employee must be justified in detail. If this authority considers the justification sufficient, it forwards the application to the FAO at the provincial level. The latter reviews the application and sends a visa notification to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the relevant Chinese embassy (or consulate) and the employer. With this notification, the foreign employee can then apply for a visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate, with which he or she can enter China once it has been issued (see also below). After entry, a test for covid-19 is carried out at the airport. If the result is negative, the foreigner must then spend 14 days in quarantine in a designated facility at his own expense (or at the employer's expense); if the result is positive, the foreigner must spend 14 days in an appropriate medical facility.

Fast-track Channel

To enter the country using the so-called fast-track channel, China must first have concluded a respective agreement with the country of which the employee is a national. This is the case with Germany.

The procedure is basically similar to that of the normal channel. However, there are stricter requirements. For example, the employer must state in detail that the foreign employee will be in a closed environment for 14 days after entry. This includes separate accommodation, separate transport (vehicle, driver), protective measures at the workplace, etc. The employee himself must not have stayed in a risk country for 14 days before applying for the visa. In addition, a negative covid-19 test must be submitted with the visa application, which (for Germany) may not be older than 48 hours. After entry into China, a further test for covid-19 is carried out and if it is negative, the employee is allowed to stay and move around in the closed environment from the time the test result is received and no quarantine is required.

Validity of existing visas

However, the entry restrictions generally do not invalidate existing visas or residence permits, even if the holder is not currently in China and cannot return to China at short notice. Nevertheless, if a visa or residence permit expires during the foreigner's absence, a new visa must be applied for in the home country. As things stand at present, it can be assumed that once the entry restrictions have been lifted, the original visas and residence permits will also become valid again.

Even if existing visas and residence permits remain valid, they do not currently entitle the holder to enter China. For this reason, despite the existence of a valid visa or residence permit that is currently temporarily suspended, a new visa must be applied for to enter China, as described above for both entry procedures. The further fate of the residence title or whether a new title has to be applied for despite the actually valid and only suspended residence title is locally very different. It is not possible to make a general statement on this at the present time.

Previous Experiences

Entry using the Fast-Track-Channel is generally possible. For example, an aircraft with German employees has already landed in Tianjin, though unfortunately one passenger was tested positive for covid-19 in China. Another flight took place from Frankfurt am Main to Shanghai.

Despite this good news, there is still a high degree of uncertainty with regard to the application for entry visas under the above-mentioned procedures. The authorities examine each application on a case-by-case basis, as it depends on the specific situation of the applying employer. In addition, there are considerable local differences in the interpretation of the regulations and the application requirements to be fulfilled. As a general recommendation, it is therefore advisable to analyze the situation in detail with regard to the prerequisites and to consult with the local authorities in detail before submitting an application. Rödl & Partner will be pleased to support you in this process.

Finally, it should be noted that the situation may change at any time, even at very short notice. For example, at short notice, China allows foreign airlines more flights to China in future if no passengers in a given period will have been tested positive for covid-19. Such facilitations can, however, be restricted again if there are positive test results. Rödl & Partner is closely monitoring the situation in this respect as well and will inform you accordingly in a timely manner.
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