European travelers welcome China's new visa policies

(Xinhua) 21:53, December 13, 2023

BRUSSELS, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Europeans travelers have hailed China's recent visa-free policy for six countries -- with five in Europe -- and a cut in visa fees for many nations.

Under the new visa-free policy, with a trial period from Dec. 1, 2023 to Nov. 30, 2024, ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia are able to enjoy visa-free travels to China for up to 15 days.

The policy was widely viewed as a boost to inbound tourism for China and a bridge for people-to-people exchanges, particularly with more Europeans planning their trip to this exotic country.

For 69-year-old French pensioner Irene, the new policy prods her to make another journey to China soon.

Recalling her last visit to China, Irene voiced hope of visiting more provincial capitals and taking the express train between different cities. "China is a really attractive country for us here in France."

"We greatly appreciate the favorable visa fee policy," said Volodymyr Gordyeyev, a Ukrainian living in Germany, who applied for a Chinese visa at the service center in Frankfurt on Monday.

Gordyeyev referred to a temporary measure taken by Chinese embassies and consulates abroad from Dec. 11, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2024 to reduce visa fees to 75 percent of the normal rates.

Gordyeyev is now looking forward to a two-week family reunion with his eldest son, who is living in China with his Chinese wife. He plans to spend Christmas with the couple, and meet his newborn granddaughter for the first time.

This will be Gordyeyev's fifth visit to China. His earlier trips took him to different cities including Guangzhou, Shanghai and Yiwu, and he became an avid lover of Chinese cuisine.

"These days, the most common types of Chinese visa applications are those for longer-term or multiple-entry permits," said a staff member at the Chinese visa application service center in Frankfurt. With the new visa-free access to Germans, the center has seen a 25-percent drop in applications.

The Chinese Embassy in Malta was one of the first to announce the cut in visa fees on Friday. While the visa fee for Maltese citizens going to China has been reduced from 60 euros (64.7 U.S. dollars) to 45 euros, fees for Malta's residents from other countries have also been reduced to 75 percent of the former amount.

The embassy said that the move was aimed at further facilitating personnel exchanges between China and Malta.

Meanwhile, the embassy said it has taken a series of measures to simplify visa application this year.

Since October, it has canceled online appointments for visa applications, with applicants now being able to go directly to the visa office on Monday and Wednesday mornings.

The effects of China's recent moves to facilitate cross-border travel have been immediate.

According to the statistics released by China's National Immigration Administration, nearly 18,000 people from the six countries, namely France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia, entered China from Dec. 1 to 3, a daily increase of 39 percent compared to Nov. 30, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said last week.

He added that about 7,000 of them came to China through the visa-free policy, and the figure accounts for 39 percent of the total number of entries from these six countries.

Daisy Zhu, an Italian passport holder who works in Paris, said, "My uncle told me about the visa-free policy ... I plan to fly to Wenzhou in October next year for my cousin's wedding."

Zhu, who was born in Italy to Chinese parents, said she has a strong bond with her extended family in her ancestral city in east China's Zhejiang Province. 

(Web editor: Xue Yanyan, Liu Ning)


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