Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry and transit
You will need a valid visa to enter China. The Chinese Visa Application Centres in London, Manchester and Edinburgh are operating but with limited opening hours. The Application Centre in Belfast remains closed.
The Chinese authorities have suspended all direct flights from the UK. This measure will be subject to review but no date has been announced. Restrictions on travel to China from other countries, and the necessary requirements, may be different. British nationals travelling to China from a third country should follow the directions on the website of the local Chinese Embassy or consulate for requirements from that country.
Eligibility for visas for travel to China remains restricted. At present, visas are issued for:
applicants who have obtained an “Invitation Letter” or “Verification Confirmation of Invitation” issued by a provincial foreign affairs office or department of commerce (M or F visa)
applicants who have obtained a “Notification Letter of Foreigners Work Permit” (Z visa)
applicants intending to visit a family member with a Z, M, or F visa
applicants intending to visit a family member who is a Chinese citizen or who holds a Chinese permanent residence permit
applicants (including dependents) who qualify for a high-level talent (R) visa
applicants who qualify for a C visa
Further details on visa requirements can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
If you’re issued a visa to travel from the UK to China in these circumstances you will need to submit a Health Declaration Certificate to your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the UK before you travel, who will need to certify your form and return it to you via email.
More details, including the process for submitting forms for those still eligible, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
In order to receive a Health Declaration Certificate from the Chinese Embassy you must provide evidence of two PCR tests for COVID-19, taken 48 hours before you travel. At least one of the tests must be taken within 12 hours of your departure.
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test from one of the eligible providers listed on the Embassy website.
Additional guidance on how to obtain a Health Declaration Certificate can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
A limited number of international flights from other countries are flying into Beijing. Other international passenger flights to Beijing continue to be diverted to 16 designated airports in Chengdu, Changsha, Hefei, Lanzhou, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Hohhot, Jinan, Qingdao, Nanjing, Shenyang, Dalian, Zhengzhou, Xi’an and Wuhan. A small number of international flights are also operating direct between European cities and Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao.
Health checks on arrival
All international arrivals will be subject to PCR testing on arrival, during and after quarantine. Even asymptomatic carriers will be isolated in a Covid hospital until they return at least three consecutive negative results. There have been some cases of individuals testing intermittently positive for a number of weeks. Travellers with a history of COVID-19 infection should consider leaving a gap between an infection and travel to China. All travellers should take precautions before and during travel to minimise as far as possible the chances of testing positive on arrival.
Health regulations surrounding passengers arriving from overseas are continuously changing. You should contact the Chinese Embassy before you travel if you have any questions regarding these entry requirements, quarantine rules or the requirements for individual cities.
Following health checks on arrival, you will then need to enter quarantine for at least 14 days. At some points of entry children 14 and over will be required to quarantine alone irrespective of whether they test positive or negative for COVID.
You may be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. Whilst we cannot prevent this, if it happens to you or is about to happen, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care. For further information on healthcare in China, please see the Coronavirus section
Quarantine is usually spent at either a centralised government hotel (with costs covered by the traveller) or your home. Quarantine requirements can change at short notice and may differ from province to province.
Follow-up swab tests are likely to take place during your quarantine period. Family members of someone who tests positive, or those who have been in close contact, will need to go into a government quarantine hospital.
For all quarantine arrangements in China:
- unless directed by the authorities you’re not allowed to leave your designated quarantine location for 14 days. This means you’re also unable to leave China for the duration of the quarantine
- depending on the quarantine location, facilities may be basic: there may be no fridge, no air-conditioning, and limited or no internet/wifi
- during your stay you will be responsible for cleaning the room
- if meals are not available at the quarantine location, you will need to arrange food orders for delivery from outside
- larger sized families with two parents may be separated into 2 rooms.
- if you’re on prescription medication make sure you bring enough with you to last for at least 3-4 weeks together with medical documents certifying that you need to take this medication. See Health for further information
Failure to comply with the quarantine conditions or testing put in place, or any attempts to deliberately conceal health conditions can result in being sentenced to up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and foreign nationals.
Following quarantine, you will need to obtain a green QR health code in order to secure accommodation. In cities with lockdowns, many hotels no longer accept new guests, including those who have recently arrived into China and completed mandatory quarantine. Before arriving into China, you should ensure you have confirmed your accommodation following your mandatory quarantine.
Regular entry requirements
British nationals normally need a visa to enter mainland China, including Hainan Island, but not Hong Kong or Macao.
All visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 inclusive need to make their visa application in person at a Visa Application Centre. As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) has to be provided.
Biometric data may be checked/collected by the immigration authorities when entering China to register your entry to the country.
If you’re transiting China, visa waivers are available in certain places. Visitors transiting through Shanghai can apply online for a 144 hour visa exemption via the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection. In other visa waiver transit locations, applications must be made in person on arrival. More information is available on the Visa Application Service Centre website.
The British Embassy in Beijing has received reports of a recent increase in cases where entry to China under the visa waiver on arrival scheme has been refused, which may be linked to previous travel history. You should note that entry to China under a visa waiver is not guaranteed - Chinese border officials have the right to refuse entry without warning or explanation. You should contact the Chinese Embassy or the China Visa Application Service Centre before your proposed trip for further information. If you’re unsure about your eligibility for a visa waiver, you’re advised to apply for a visa before travelling.
If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China and wish to return to the mainland, you’ll need a visa that allows you to make a second entry into China.
It is your responsibility to check your visa details carefully. Do not overstay your visa or work illegally. The authorities conduct regular checks and you may be fined, detained or deported (or all three).
If you remain in China longer than 6 months, you may need to get a Residence Permit.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months when you enter China.
Registering with the Chinese authorities
You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Chinese authorities enforce this requirement with regular spot-checks of foreigners’ documentation. If you’re staying in a hotel, they will do this for you as part of the check-in process.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Working in China
You can only work in China if you have a Z visa - tourist and business visit visas do not allow you to do so. You must also hold a valid work permit. The local police regularly carry out checks on companies/schools. Violation of Chinese immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, deportation, a travel ban preventing you from leaving China, and an exclusion order, which prevents you from returning.
Before you leave the UK you should contact the Chinese Embassy to check visa requirements. When submitting your visa application, and when you receive your work permit, check that the details are correct, including the location you’ll be working in. If they’re not, you can be detained.
If you intend to change employer once you’re in China, you should check with the Chinese authorities whether a new visa and work permit is needed before doing so.
Teaching in China
Teaching in China can be a rewarding experience, but before you travel it’s important that you research thoroughly the school or university that is hiring you and are confident that they are following the law. There have been many incidents of teachers being detained and/or deported for working on the wrong visas. It is your responsibility to check you’re working on the correct visa.