The new liberalised visa agreement between China and the US will unleash a major travel and trade boom between the world’s two largest economies and will also be used as a template by Beijing to make similar arrangements with other developed countries, Chinese officials said on Saturday.
The new agreement made during the recent visit of US President Barack Obama to Beijing for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit will extend the validity of B1, B2 and B1/B2 visas to 10 years from one year for Chinese citizens travelling to the US for business or leisure.
B1 visa is for business and B2 visa for tourism while B1/ B2 covers both.
US citizens applying for tourism, business and visiting visas for China will enjoy a reciprocal arrangement, Huang Ping, Director General of the Consular Department said.
“It will also be used as a template to make similar arrangements with other developed countries,” official media here quoted Huang as saying.
Officials believe the new 10-year visa policy for tourists and businessmen will benefit about 80 per cent of travellers between the countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry statistics show that 4.05 million people travelled between China and the US last year and 70 to 80 per cent of them were business people and tourists.
“It means that an average of more than 10,000 people are travelling between the two countries every day,” Huang said.
A number of Chinese are buying properties in the US, taking advantage of liberalised investment regime by Washington to attract more investments.
Huang said that consultations will be continued to better facilitate short-term official visit visas and work visas in both countries.
“We are making step-by-step efforts to cover those who travel, for whatever purpose, with reciprocal polices,” he said.
“China has spared no efforts to promote visa facilitation with other countries. We hope the agreement with the US can set an example for future consultations between China and other developed countries,” he said.
Li Haidong, a professor of US studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the reciprocal visa arrangement reflects breakthroughs China has made on visa applications with developed countries.
Huang said Canada is offering Chinese travellers 10-year visas for tourism, business and general visits.
European countries, including Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, are also issuing long-validity visas to an increasing number of Chinese, state-run China Daily reported.
Jia Xiudong, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said visa facilitation is the result of growing demand, both in China and foreign countries.
“China’s stunning economic development has made it possible for more and more Chinese to travel abroad,” he said.
Huang, however, admitted that the government’s work has not matched the growing demand from Chinese citizens for more convenient visas.
For example, the number of countries that have signed mutual visa exemption agreements with China for ordinary passport holders is relatively small, while requirements in some countries for Chinese visa applicants are quite stringent, he said.