China to Start Issuing All Visa Types For Foreign Travelers

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China said it will start re-issuing all categories of visas to foreigners from Wednesday, dropping the final cross-border control measure it imposed three years ago to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that it will begin reissuing all types of visas to foreigners from March 15.

The move, which comes after authorities last month declared victory over a recent surge in the virus, is expected to help rekindle a $17 trillion economy that has suffered one of its slowest rates of growth in nearly half a century last year.

Areas in China that required no visas prior to the pandemic will revert to visa-free entry, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday. This will include the southern tourist island of Hainan and cruise ships passing through Shanghai port.

Beijing ended its zero-COVID policy last December, and began opening borders the next month.

It also said Beijing will lift restrictions for various locations, such as Hainan island cruise ships passing through Shanghai ports.

Visas issued before March 28, 2020 that are still valid will also allow entry to China.

China also added another 40 countries to its list for which group tours are allowed, but that still excludes Japan, South Korea, Australia and the US.

New Premier Li Qiang said on Monday that China took less than two months to achieve a "smooth transition" in its response to COVID-19 and that the country's strategies and measures had been completely correct.

Other nations began reopening their borders earlier, but China only relaxed its strict COVID strategy after protests broke out in many parts of the country.