China and the United States recently drafted a deal which will mutually grant each other’s citizens the right to obtain ten year tourist and business visas, as well as extended visas for students. This is a landmark move that I hope more countries will replicate.
Though it is clear that U.S. citizens can now get visas that are valid to China for 10 years, there are still many questions to be answered and details to be worked out.
While the tourist visa is valid for ten years that doesn’t mean that a tourist can come to China and just hang out here for a decade. There are stipulations on how long you can stay for each visit. From looking at the picture of the visa above — that of the first American to be granted this visa — it seems as if it is for stays of 60 days each. This means he needs to leave the country, at the very least, once every 60 days.
It is unclear how long you need to be out of the country before returning. Typically, when you have a 12 month tourist or business visa to China you can leave and then come right back — proper visa runs are allowed — but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the country adapt a policy like in the USA or Schengen Europe, where you can only stay for X amount of days out of any given X day period (the U.S. and the Schengen zone is 90 days out of any 180).
Another point that I have to raise is whether or not these visas can be used to obtain a temporary residence permits? I would think that the answer would be an unequivocal no. Obtaining temp residency means that you need to either be sponsored by an employer or a school — both of which require different entry visas.
I also must wonder how common these ten year tourist/ business visas will be. Will this be something that U.S. citizens will be given by default, as it is in Brazil, or will they only be made available for special cases — such as someone with a special travel agenda or representatives for multinational corporations? I have to also question how difficult they will the be to obtain. What do you need to show? What do you need to prove? Is this going to be something like China’s green card scheme, where foreigners can technically obtain permanent residence status but hardly anybody actually qualifies for it.
Also, what consulates will award these new long term visas? While it’s always been rather easy for U.S. citizens to obtain long term Chinese tourist visas from some places (like Seoul), it’s virtually impossible from others. Will this policy of granting ten year visas be implemented globally or only from consulates in the USA?
At least on the China end, it is my opinion that these ten year visas are basically the same thing as the six month and 12 month tourist/ business visas that are already available. These visas enable visitors to stay for 30/60/90 days at a time, do not provide the right to employment, and cannot be precursors to a temp residence permit. The only difference and advantage of the 10 year visa I can see is that you won’t need to reapply for visas so often — which saves money and a lot hassle.
Whatever the case, all countries should adapt these long term tourist/ business visa schemes. There is no reason not to. It’s the globalism era, and across the world countries that were once poor are sprouting middle and upper classes on par with those of the former 1st world, prices are rising in formerly cheap countries, and everything is starting to even out. Where just 20 years ago a working class Chinese person going to the USA would be suspected of working illegally and trying to stay, now, more than likely, they are going to just be a tourist wanting to go to Manhattan and Hollywood.
All a tourist — even a dirtbag budget traveler — is going to do in a foreign country is spend the money they made in another country. The fear, I suppose is if people are working illegally on tourist visas. Though this is only a problem if they undercut the local manual labor supply. In the case of Americans coming to China, that is extremely unlikely to happen. A more likely scenario is that they will do something like teaching English or some type of low level, white collar work, thus providing skills that employers get enough of locally — which is good for the country as a whole. Though even if a tourist was to work a grunt job for less than the locals, they would be providing local businesses with cheap labor, therefore upping their profit margin — which is also good for the country as a whole.
While immigration restrictions and protectionist labor policies make sense in some situations, they shouldn’t inhibit the free flow of tourists and business people. If someone has the cash or the expertise to survive in another country they are probably only going to be a benefit to that country. Going to a consulate, standing in line, filling out forms, and paying cash each time you want to go to certain places is an archaic practice that serves little practical benefit to any party. Foreign money is still money, foreign know-how is still know-how. The countries that realize this will be the ones that rise to the top.
After a rough start where many countries seemed confused about what to do with the mass amounts of foreigners at their gates, I have a feeling that we are about to enter a new golden era of world travel.