After a two-year blanket ban, the Chinese embassy has updated its visa policy to allow Indian professionals and their families to return to China for resumption of all work in all areas. China has also decided to process applications of Indian students at Chinese universities who want to rejoin their courses.
How had China changed its visa policy?
In light of the rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout the world, China had decided to suspend entry into China for foreign nationals with visas or residence permits. China had decided to temporarily restrict non-Chinese nationals from a number of countries, including Bangladesh, Belgium, Ethiopia, France, India, Italy, Philippines, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
Chinese visa and/or residence permit holders (for work, personal matters, and reunion) were not permitted entry into China, even if they were still valid at the time of these announcements by Chinese embassies. Foreign nationals with APEC Business Travel Cards were also denied entry. Port visas, the 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, and the Guangxi 15-day visa-free policy for foreign tour groups from ASEAN countries were also suspended. But entry with diplomatic service had remained unaffected.
What was India’s stand on the visa ban?
Vikram Misri, India’s former ambassador to China and current Deputy National Security Advisor had last year expressed “disappointment” over China’s refusal to allow the return of thousands of stranded Indian students, employees, and their families due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
China’s restrictions, he had then said, were an “unscientific approach” to a purely humanitarian issue. India had urged Beijing to adopt a “congenial stance”, saying continuation of the strict restrictions was putting the academic careers of thousands of Indian students in jeopardy. The restrictive visa policy by China had led to India suspending tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals in April 2022.
Just a few days ago, a group of Indian professionals based in China had requested External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to encourage Beijing to enable their stranded families to return.
What changes now?
The Chinese embassy in India updated the visa policy with effect from June 13. Now, foreign nationals and their accompanying family members going to China for resumption of work in all fields are allowed to apply. It permits family members of Chinese citizens and foreigners with Chinese permanent residence permit to go to China for family reunion or visiting relatives.
With this announcement, Indians with Chinese spouses and numerous Chinese employees stranded in India due to China’s visa limitations are also relieved. Visas for tourism and private purposes, however, are still suspended, according to the Chinese embassy.
What does it mean for Indian students?
The new announcement has come as a relief for Indian students. According to some estimates, nearly 23,000 Indian students, most of them studying medicine in Chinese colleges, were stuck in India after returning home in December 2019. Around 12,000 Indian students, according to reports, had expressed a desire to return after the situation began appearing less threatening.
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The visa announcement by China has raised hopes that previously restricted flights between the two countries will be resumed soon.
In recent months, China has allowed students from countries such as Pakistan, Thailand, the Solomon Islands, and, most recently, Sri Lanka to return.