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

We are well into 2023 and everyday feels like we are moving closer to a pre-covid China, but there is still a long way to go in terms of returning to China. Kinyu’s CEO Benjamin King recently traveled between mainland China and Hong Kong, as has received visitors from overseas into China. So we have decided to update this blog with the latest travel news.

Returning to China: Flights

At the beginning of February, international flight capacity was still only 10% compared to 2019. However, more airlines are reopening their routes to China, most notably the return of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic resuming their routes to Beijing and Shanghai. In addition to this, many airlines have increased their flights from once a week to 3 times a week. The end goal will be for these airlines to be flying daily.

Flight prices remain a lot higher than pre-covid. This is in part of capacity, but also a lot of pent-up demand from travelers in both directions. We expect this to remain the situation throughout 2023.

The option of flying to Hong Kong and then taking a train or transfer flight remains a sensible option, as capacity is greater and flights generally cheaper.

Returning to China: Covid Testing

A 48-hour Covid test is still required to board a flight to China. This must be a PCR test as Rapid Antigen tests are not valid. There is no specific list of certified testing centres in your country, advising that any test centre certified in your own country will be sufficient. For example, in the UK – the pharmacy Boots could provide. Another point to note – the test result must be printed out.

Returning to China: Visas

All visas issued before March 2020 were either suspended or cancelled, so the likelihood is that you will need to apply for a new visa. Visa centres are very busy with applications, so its important you get your application in early, especially if you plan to visit the upcoming trade fairs.

Also the application process will have changed slightly – the application form has certainly 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. It should be noted that tourist visas are still not open for application.

You will need your invitation letter from a business in China. Kinyu SCM has a verified template for this, if you would like us to send you a copy – please request one here.

Returning to China: 144 hour visa free transit policy

Struggling to get the visa? Fortunately, the 144 hour transit visas have been reinstated in some areas of China. You can fly to China on a transit visa, which does not need to be applied 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, Hebei province on this transit visa. More information on how it works can be found here.

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

Returning to China: Entering via Hong Kong.

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

It should be noted that there is another layer of Covid Admin, where you have to do a Covid test in Hong Kong before you travel to mainland – there is a testing station in Hong Kong airport for this very purpose, you can book in advance here.

Returning to China: Customs Health Declaration

When entering or leaving mainland China, you will need to do a health declaration online. This can be done on WeChat, or by scanning a QR code. You will be issued with a black code which will be scanned by the authorities at the customs entry/exit point. Its best to fill out in advance and then take a screenshot. Make sure you fill it out on the same day you are crossing the borders.

Returning to China
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

Some countries still require a Covid test for your return flight. Every city has designated test sites for this, but the process can be quite cumbersome. It is best to find a local person to help you. If you have a supplier or team member in China who is Chinese, they may be able to assist you, Kinyu provides this support to its China Desk members.

Returning to China
A Covid test from a hospital in Shenzhen, this was acceptable for return to 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 for Covid test centres for international travel in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The same test centre in Hong Kong airport will suffice as well, but make sure you leave plenty of time for the result to come through.

If you need to find a local one in another city, feel free to contact us and we will help you out.

Keep up to date with the latest

These policies can change at very short notice. So it’s important you keep abrest of the most recent policy announcements. 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.

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.