|April 22, 2008|
|MFA confirms new ruling for short stays; it is expected to be lifted after Olympics in August|
|By Lee Hui Chieh|
|IT IS confirmed: Singaporeans travelling to China from July 1 will need a visa – even for stays lasting 15 days or less.This requirement is expected to be lifted after the Olympic Games, which Beijing is hosting from Aug 8 to 24.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) here said that it was told of the visa requirement by the Chinese authorities yesterday.
She said: ‘We have been given the assurance that the visa requirement is a temporary measure. The visa-free travel facility for trips of 15 days or less will be reinstated after the Beijing Olympics.’
However, Beijing did not specify exactly when this would happen, she added.
The MFA’s statement yesterday made official the latest change to China’s visa rules, first reported in The Straits Times last Saturday.
It follows a series of recent changes which have reportedly caused confusion and delays. For example, travellers going to China through Hong Kong were left stranded when the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong stopped granting them visas.
The tightened rules are said to be in line with growing security concerns over the Olympics and the unrest in Tibet.
Since 2003, citizens from Singapore, Brunei and Japan have been exempted from applying for visas for short stays of up to 15 days in China.
The new rule, however, appears to apply only to Singapore, going by a page on the website of China’s embassy in the United States, which was updated a week ago.
Neither MFA nor the Chinese embassy here could confirm this.
The 2003 move was aimed at boosting tourism and business travel to China – and it seems to have done just that.
The number of Singaporeans going there has been increasing: In the first 11 months of last year, Singaporeans made over 812,000 visits to China, more than 11 per cent higher than for the same period in 2006.
Travel agents last night said they did not foresee tourists cancelling their trips to the mainland largely because the agents will handle visa applications for their customers.
Travellers who would experience the hassle of applying personally for their visas are the minority who buy their tickets online or from the airlines, said Ms Alicia Seah, vice-president of UOB Travel Planners.
Getting a China visa usually takes four working days to a week.
It is not clear yet whether the new rule will result in delays in getting visas here, but travel agents seem confident they will be able to cope.
Ms Ivy Tan, Chan Brothers Travel’s director of marketing communications, said her company has an entire department handling visa applications.
Going to China? You’ll need visa from July
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