Returning to China for the first time in 3 years? Here’s what you need to know…

Returning to China for the first time in 3 years? Here’s what you need to know – UPDATED March 2023

Recently, we have seen an apparent increase in visitors to China, and now that cross-border trips have sky-rocketed, it is time for another review of which restrictions remain in place.


Although flight levels remain a fraction of what they were in 2019, things are slowly improving. Last month we reported about 10% of pre-covid capacity. However, this number now sits at 20%. Despite this positive increase, we are still waiting on significant changes, such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic resuming their routes to Beijing and Shanghai, to kick in, and flights to/from the US are still costly.

As a matter of fact, flight prices generally remain much higher than pre-covid. This price is partly due to capacity and high travel demand in both directions. According to South China Morning Post, flight capacity will be 50-60% of pre-covid levels by the end of 2023.

As a result, flying to Hong Kong and taking a train or transfer flight remains a sensible option, as they have more capacity and flights are generally cheaper.

Covid Testing

There have also been significant changes to Covid testing requirements. Soon, travellers from 31 countries will not require a PCR test result when boarding the plane. However, you may still be required to do a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) at home.

From 1st MarFrom 15th Mar
New ZealandMongolia
South AfricaTanzania
Sri LankaVietnam

Although the UK, US, and Germany are not on the list, we hope they will be soon.

Those flying from a country not on this list will still require a 48-hour Covid test to board a flight to China. This test must be a PCR test, as Rapid Antigen tests will not be valid. There is no specific list of certified testing centres in your country, advising that any test centre certified in your country will be sufficient. For example, you can find a test in the UK pharmacy Boots.


We have great news in this department! The government have not reinstated the visas issued before March 2020, so if you have a 10-year visa from the China consulate in the US, it should now be valid! However, many visas will probably expire by now, so you may need to apply for a new one.

China has also announced it will re-issue tourist visas, significantly boosting cross-border travel and making visa centres even busier with applications. Therefore, you must get your application in early, especially if you plan to visit the upcoming trade fairs.

The application forms have changed slightly – the application form has undoubtedly become much more detailed, so be prepared to fill in much more information about your family and employment! Here is an article explaining all the relevant documents you might need to support your application. Please note that tourist visas are still not open for application.

You may still need an invitation letter from a business in China. Kinyu SCM has a verified template for this. If you want us to send you a copy – please request one here.

144-hour visa-free transit policy

Are you struggling to get a visa? Fortunately, some areas in China have reinstated the 144-hour transit visas. As a result, you can fly to China on a transit visa, which you do not need to apply for in advance. This visa requires an onward flight ticket to a third country, and you apply for it at the airport on arrival. The transit document is valid for 144 hours, with limitations on where you can travel. For example, you can fly into Beijing and travel within Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei provinces on this transit visa. You can find more information on how it works here

A Pre-Covid example of the 144-hour transit visa

Entering via Hong Kong.

Since Hong Kong has had a much more extended and gradual opening period, the flights to and from Hong Kong are more flexible and cheaper. In addition, the high-speed train from Hong Kong to mainland China reopened on 15th Jan 2023, so travel to regions across China is much more accessible.

You do not need a Covid test result to travel to Hong Kong, but if Your country is not on the list above, you will have to do a Covid test in Hong Kong before you travel to mainland China. Hong Kong airport has a testing station for this very purpose, and you can book in advance here.

Customs Health Declaration

You must complete a health declaration online when entering or leaving mainland China. You can do this on WeChat or by scanning a QR code, and the website will issue you with a black code which the authorities at the customs entry/exit point. It is best to fill it out in advance and take a screenshot. You must also make sure you fill it out the same day you cross borders.

You will see these QR codes and instructions to fill in. Thankfully there is an English version!

PCR test requirements for returning to your home country

Many countries have dropped this, but some require a Covid test for your return flight. Every city has designated test sites for this, but the process can be cumbersome. It is best to find a local person to help you. If you have a Chinese supplier or team member in China, they may be able to assist you. However, if you don’t, we at Kinyu provide this support to our China Desk members.

A Covid test from a hospital in Shenzhen was acceptable for return to the UK.

There are many test centres in Chinese cities, but you must make sure the result can be shown on your phone and is in English. Local foreign media outlets track this information quite carefully. For example, here is a list of Covid test centres for international travel in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The same test centre in Hong Kong airport will also suffice, but make sure you leave plenty of time for the result to come through.

Keep up to date with the latest

These policies can change at very short notice. As a result, it’s important you keep abrest of the most recent policy announcements. To help keep you informed, we will be updating this article from time to time, but not on daily basis, so its important to check if this information applies for you. It is also important to note that China may have different requirements depending on the country you come from and for the reason you are travelling. This article was written for Kinyu customers based in UK, EU and US.

Get in touch for more support

We are happy to hear from people travelling to China, so please feel free to get in touch here for any questions or if you need to find a local one in another city.

Benjamin King

CEO, Kinyu

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Benjamin King

CEO, Kinyu

Need More On-The-Ground Tips & Resources?

Join our monthly digest for an overview of our blogs on Supply Chains, China HR policies, and managing Asia supply chain operations remotely.

By submitting my information, I agree to Kinyu's Privacy Policy.