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XYZ Consular Info: China
China Consular Information Sheet
April 11, 2002
GENERAL COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The People's Republic of China was established
October 1, 1949, with Beijing as its capital city. With well over 1.3
billion citizens, China is the world's most populous country and the third
largest country in the world in terms of territory. China is undergoing
rapid, profound economic and social change and development. Political power
remains centralized in the Chinese Communist Party. Modern tourist
facilities are available in major cities, but many facilities in smaller
provincial cities and rural areas are frequently below international
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport and visa are required to enter
China. Americans arriving without valid passports and the appropriate
Chinese visa are not permitted to enter and will be subject to a fine and
immediate deportation at the traveler's expense. Travelers should not rely
on Chinese host organizations claiming to be able to arrange a visa upon
Visas are required to transit China. Persons transiting China on the way to
and from Mongolia or North Korea or who plan to re-enter from the Hong Kong
or Macau Special Administrative Regions should be sure to obtain visas
allowing multiple entries. Permits are required to visit Tibet as well as
many remote areas not normally open to foreigners.
For information about entry requirements and restricted areas, travelers may
consult the Embassy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) at 2300
Connecticut Avenue N.W., Washington. D.C. 20008, or telephone (1-202)
328-2500, 2501 or 2502. For a list of services and frequently asked visa
questions and answers, travelers can view the Chinese Embassy's web sites at
www.china-embassy.org, or email@example.com. There are Chinese
Consulates General in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San
Francisco. Americans traveling in Asia have been able to obtain visas to
enter China from the Chinese visa office in Hong Kong and the Embassy of the
People's Republic of China in Seoul, South Korea.
Americans who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their Chinese visas
will be subject to fines and departure delays and may be subject to
detention. Travelers should note that international flights departing China
are routinely overbooked, making reconfirmation of departure reservations
and early airport check-in essential. Passengers must pay a RMB 100 airport
user fee (approximately $12 US) when departing China on international
flights and RMB 60 airport fee (approximately US $7.20) for all domestic
DUAL NATIONALITY: China does not recognize dual nationality. Some U.S.
citizens who are also Chinese nationals (mostly U.S.-born children of
Chinese nationals or Legal Permanent Residents) have experienced difficulty
entering and departing China on U.S. passports. In some cases, such dual
nationals are required to use Chinese travel documents to depart China.
Normally this causes inconvenience but no significant problems for affected
persons; however, in child custody disputes, the ability of dual national
children to depart from China could be affected. Chinese "Travel Permits"
(Luxingzheng) are usually issued to U.S. citizen children of Chinese
citizens in lieu of a visa. These documents are essentially one-way permits
that allow entry into China, but do not permit the holder to depart.
Persons holding Chinese "Travel Permits" are regarded as Chinese citizens by
Chinese authorities. In addition to being subject to all Chinese laws, dual
nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations
on Chinese citizens. In some cases, such dual nationals are required to use
Chinese documentation to enter China, in which case U.S. consular access and
protection will be denied. Dual nationals who enter and depart China using
a U.S. passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular
access and protection under the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention. The ability
of the U.S. Embassy or Consulates General to provide normal consular
services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter China on a
Chinese or other non-U.S. travel document, including PRC documents issued to
persons from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.
If one or both parents of a child are PRC nationals who have not permanently
settled in another country, then China regards the child as a PRC national
and does not recognize any other citizenship the child may acquire at birth,
including U.S. citizenship. This is true regardless of where the child is
born. Such children are required to enter and depart China on PRC travel
documents. Although Chinese consulates have frequently issued visas to such
individuals in error, they are treated solely as PRC nationals by Chinese
authorities when in China. Specific questions on dual nationality may be
directed to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Department of State,
Room 4811, Washington. D.C. 20520 or to the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. Consulates
General in China. For additional information, please see the Bureau of
Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for
the Dual Nationality flyer.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Americans visiting or residing in China are advised to
take the normal safety precautions travelers take when in a foreign country.
Specifically, travelers should remain aware of their surroundings and of
events that are happening around them. Travelers should respect local police
requirements to temporarily avoid travel in some areas. In light of the
greatly increased numbers of older Americans traveling to China, U.S. tour
operators should check that local guides are familiar with medical
facilities and emergency medical evacuation procedures.
American citizens who rent apartments with gas appliances should be aware
that in some areas, natural gas is not scented to warn occupants of gas
leaks or concentrations. In addition, heaters may not always be well
vented, thereby allowing excess carbon monoxide to build up in living
spaces. Due to recent fatal accidents involving American citizens,
travelers are advised to ensure all gas appliances are properly vented or
install gas and carbon monoxide detectors in their residences. These
devices are not widely available in China, and they should be purchased
prior to arrival.
Chinese security personnel may place foreign government officials,
journalists, and business people with access to advanced proprietary
technology under surveillance. Hotel rooms and personal computing devices
for these categories of visitors are sometimes searched.
Terrorism is rare in China, although a small number of bombings and
incidents of unrest have occurred in Beijing and in other areas inhabited
primarily by ethnic minorities. Recent bombings have largely been the result
of commercial disputes between Chinese. There is no indication that acts of
public violence have been directed against foreigners.
CRIME: Overall, China is a safe country, with a low but increasing crime
rate. Pickpockets target tourists at sightseeing destinations, open air
markets and in stores, often with the complicity of low-paid security
guards. Violence against foreigners occurs, but it is rare. The number of
violent incidents against Americans is very low on a worldwide basis (there
were nine reported violent attacks on American citizens between 1999 and
2001), but such incidents do occur. Robberies, sometimes at gunpoint, have
occurred in western China, and there have been some reports of robberies and
assaults along remote mountain highways near China's border with Nepal.
Travelers are sometimes asked by locals to exchange money at a preferential
rate. It is illegal to exchange dollars for RMB except at banks, hotels and
official exchange offices. Due to the large volume of counterfeit currency
in China, unofficial exchanges usually result in travelers losing their
money and possibly left to face charges of breaking foreign exchange laws.
Travelers should have small bills (RMB 10, 20 and 50 notes) for travel by
taxi. Reports of taxi drivers using counterfeit RMB 50 and 100 notes to
make change for large bills are increasingly common.
Throughout China, women outside hotels in tourist districts frequently use
the prospect of companionship or sex to lure foreign men to isolated
locations where accomplices are waiting for the purpose of robbery.
Travelers should not allow themselves to be driven to bars or an
individual's home unless they know the person making the offer. Hotel
guests should refuse to open their room doors to anyone they do not know
personally. Sexual assaults in China reported by American women usually
involve acquaintances rather than strangers.
American visitors to China should carry their passports with them out of
reach of pickpockets. Americans with Chinese residence permits (juliuzheng)
should carry these documents, and leave their passports in a secure location
except when traveling. All Americans are encouraged to make photocopies of
their passport bio-data pages and Chinese visas and to keep these in a
separate, secure location.
The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the
police in the city where the loss occurs as well as to the nearest U.S.
embassy or consulate general. Americans who give away or sell their
passport in China are liable to arrest and prosecution in both China and in
the United States. For useful information on safeguarding valuables,
protecting personal security, and ways to promote a trouble-free journey
while traveling abroad, U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." This is available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 or via the Internet
at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Western style medical facilities with international
staffs are available in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and a few other large
cities. Many other hospitals in major Chinese cities have so-called VIP
wards (gaogan bingfang). These feature reasonably up-to-date medical
technology and physicians who are both knowledgeable and skilled. Most VIP
wards also provide medical services to foreigners and have English-speaking
doctors and nurses. Most hospitals in China will not accept medical
insurance from the United States. Travelers will be asked to post a deposit
prior to admission to cover the expected cost of treatment. Many hospitals
in major cities may accept credit cards for payment. Even in the
VIP/Foreigner wards of major hospitals, however, American patients have
frequently encountered difficulty due to cultural and regulatory
differences. Physicians and hospitals have sometimes refused to supply
American patients with complete copies of their Chinese hospital medical
records, including laboratory test results, scans, and x-rays. All
Americans traveling to China are strongly encouraged to buy foreign medical
care and medical evacuation insurance prior to arrival. Travelers who want
a list of modern medical facilities in China can e-mail the United States
Embassy's American Citizen Services unit at AmCitBeijing@state.gov and
request a list by return e-mail.
Ambulances do not carry sophisticated medical equipment, and ambulance
personnel generally have little or no medical training. Therefore, injured
or seriously ill Americans may be required to take taxis or other
immediately available vehicles to the nearest major hospital rather than
waiting for ambulances to arrive. In rural areas, only rudimentary medical
facilities are generally available. Medical personnel in rural areas are
often poorly trained, have little medical equipment or availability to
medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to accept responsibility for
treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.
Foreign-operated medical providers catering to expatriates and visitors are
available in China. SOS International, Ltd., operates modern medical and
dental clinics and provides medical evacuation and medical escort services
in several Chinese cities. For medical emergencies anywhere in mainland
China, Americans can call the SOS International, Ltd., 24-hour "Alarm
Center" in Beijing at telephone (86-10) 6462-9100 or in Shanghai at (86-21)
6295-0099 for advice and referrals to local facilities. SOS International
Alarm Centers can also be contacted in Hong Kong at telephone (852)
2428-9900 and in the United States at (1-800) 523-6586.
The Australian firm, GlobalDoctor, Ltd., has opened clinics staffed by
English-speaking doctors within the VIP wards of government-run hospitals in
Chengdu, Nanjing, and Beijing. GlobalDoctor can be reached by telephone
from China at (61-8) 92263088 or on the Internet at
http://www.eglobaldoctor.com. Additional information on medical providers
specializing in treating foreigners for general medical, dental and
orthodontic problems is available at http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: Americans are advised not to travel to China without
both health insurance and medical evacuation insurance (often included in
so-called "travel" insurance and provided as part of a tour group package).
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States.
Medicare/Medicaid programs do not provide coverage for medical services
outside the United States. Even when insurance does cover services received
in China, it will usually be necessary to pay first and then file for
reimbursement with the insurance company upon returning to the United
States. Supplemental insurance with specific overseas coverage, including
provision for medical evacuation, is strongly recommended and can be
purchased in the United States prior to travel. Please check with your own
insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, and if it
includes a provision for medical evacuation.
Recent medical evacuations by air ambulance from China to nearby areas have
cost over US $30,000. Two private emergency medical assistance firms, SOS
International, Ltd., and Medex Assistance Corporation, offer medical
insurance policies designed for travelers. Both of these companies have
staff in China who can assist in the event of a medical emergency.
SOS International, Ltd.
Beijing Clinic address: Building C, BITIC Leasing Center
No. 1 North Road, Xingfu Sancun, Sanlitun, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100027
Beijing SOS International Clinic, telephone: (86-10) 6462-9112, Fax (86-10)
For medical emergencies, please telephone the SOS International Alarm Center
at (86-10) 6462-9100 from anywhere in Mainland China, From Hong Kong: call
(852) 2428-9900 From the U.S.: 1-800-468-5232. These phone lines are
answered 24 hours by SOS International Alarm Center personnel. For
information on purchasing health or travel insurance from SOS International,
please telephone (1-800) 523-6586 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time,
Monday through Friday) in the U.S. or visit http://www.intsos.com on the
Internet or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOS members calling with a medical emergency should first telephone the
Alarm Center in Beijing at (86-10)6462-9100.
MEDEX Assistance Corporation
Regus Office 19, Beijing Lufthansa Center
No. 50 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing Office Fax: (86-10) 6465-1240 or (86-10) 6465-1269
Email: email@example.com (Baltimore, Maryland)
U.S. telephone: (1-800) 537-2029 or (1-410) 453-6300 (24 hours)
Emergencies (members only): (1-800) 527-0218 or (1-410) 453-6330
Web site: http://www.medexassist.com
Medex members calling with a medical emergency should call Medex-Emergency
in China at telephone (86-10) 6465-1264.
Heathrow Air Ambulance
Heathrow is an air evacuation service with offices in the United States and
England. Travelers can pre-arrange air evacuation insurance and other
emergency travel assistance. This service also has a business plan to
assist foreigners who lack travel insurance. Heathrow Air Ambulance Service,
15554 FM, Suite 195 Houston, TX. 77095-2704.
Office telephone 1-800-513-5192. fax 1-281-550-9763. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of
Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling
Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page, or
autofax: 1-202 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Most roads and towns in Tibet, Qinghai, parts of
Xinjiang, and western Sichuan are situated at altitudes over 10,000 feet.
Travelers should seek medical advice in advance of travel, allow time for
acclimatization to the high altitude, and remain alert to signs of altitude
sickness. HIV has become a significant concern in China. Travelers should
always ask doctors and dentists to use sterilized equipment and be prepared
to pay for new syringe needles in hospitals or clinics. Air pollution is a
problem throughout urban China. Travelers should consult their doctor prior
to travel and consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate
pollution may have on them.
Alcoholics Anonymous can be reached in Beijing at telephone (86-10)
6437-6305, or visit the
U.S. Embassy web page in advance of travel to China for additional contact
numbers. There is an
Al-Anon chapter in Beijing that can be reached at (86-10) 6940-3935.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for
international travelers at 1-877-394-8747; fax -888-232-3299
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S.
citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those
in the United States. The information below concerning the People's
Republic of China is provided for general reference only, and may not be
totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving etiquette in China is developing. As a result, traffic is often
chaotic, and right-of-way and other courtesies are often ignored. Travelers
should note that cars and buses in the wrong lanes frequently hit
pedestrians and bicyclists on sidewalks. Pedestrians should always be
careful while walking near traffic.
Road/traffic conditions are generally safe if occupants of modern passenger
vehicles wear seatbelts. Most traffic accident injuries involve pedestrians
or cyclists who are involved in collisions or who encounter unexpected road
hazards (e.g., unmarked open manholes). Foreigners with resident permits can
apply for PRC driver licenses; however, liability issues often make it
preferable to employ a local driver. Child safety seats are not widely
available. Americans who wish to ride bicycles in China are urged to wear
safety helmets meeting U.S. standards.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair in or near large cities;
unavailable in rural areas.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to
foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of
Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
has assessed the civil aviation authority of the government of the People's
Republic of China as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation
safety standards for oversight of China's air carrier operations.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For
information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may
contact the DOD at telephone (1-618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Chinese customs authorities enforce strict regulations
concerning temporary importation into or export from China of items such as
antiquities, banned publications or vehicles not conforming to Chinese
standards. Information concerning regulations and procedures governing
items that may be brought into China is available through the Chinese
Embassy and Consulates in the United States. Students may bring into China
only a limited number of items that are considered necessary for study and
daily life. Some U.S. citizens residing in China have been required to pay
customs duty on certain high-value items when departing China because
procedures were not followed when the items were originally brought into
The importation of pets into China (cats, dogs and some birds) is generally
allowable if the animal has up to date international shot records and a
veterinary certificate of health. Note that animals are deported by the
Chinese customs if the shot records are not authenticated and notarized by a
state notary. Importation of exotic animals may be considered but must be
pre-approved by Chinese customs. Additional information on Chinese customs
and animal import and export regulations can be obtained by calling the
Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. at telephone 1-202-338-6688.
Chinese customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission
Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of
professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and
fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for
International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036,
issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional
information, please telephone (212) 354-4480, or send e-mail to
email@example.com or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject
to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly
from those in the United States and do not afford the protections available
to the individual under U.S. law.
Americans in China who are not staying at hotels, including Americans who
are staying with friends or relatives, must register with local police.
Americans who are questioned by police should immediately notify the U.S.
Embassy or the nearest consulate. Foreigners detained for questioning may
not be allowed to contact their national authorities until the questioning
is concluded. Foreigners detained pending trial have often waited over a
year for their trial to begin. Americans are rarely granted bail. Criminal
punishments, especially prison terms, are more severe than in the United
States. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled,
arrested or imprisoned. Criminal penalties for possession, use, or
trafficking of illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect
severe jail sentences and fines. Non-American foreigners have been executed
for drug offenses. Several Americans currently incarcerated in China have
been implicated in financial fraud schemes involving falsified banking or
business documents, tax evasion schemes and assisting alien smuggling,
including selling passports.
In the past, protesters detained for engaging in pro-Falun Gong activities
have been deported quickly from China. Several of these protesters alleged
they were physically abused during their detention. In addition, they
alleged that personal property including clothing, cameras and computers had
not always been returned to them upon their deportation. Chinese
authorities report while they have deported these foreigners quickly after
public demonstrations in favor of the Falun Gong, future adherents who
intentionally arrive in China to protest against Chinese policy may receive
longer terms of detention and possibly face prison sentences.
CONSULAR ACCESS: The U.S.-PRC Consular Convention of 1980 provides that
detained U.S. citizens have the right to contact a U.S. consular officer,
that U.S. consular officers shall be notified within four days whenever an
American is taken into custody, and that a consular officer may visit
detained Americans. Note, however, that U.S. consular officers do not
always receive timely notification of the detention or arrest of a U.S.
citizen. U.S. citizens who are detained or arrested should request contact
with the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. Consulates General. As explained
in the section on Dual Nationality found earlier in this document, China
does not recognize dual nationality. Naturalized U.S. citizens who enter
China on Chinese passports or PRC-issued
Hong Kong or Taiwan travel documents can be denied access to U.S. consular
U.S. Government strongly recommends that all Americans enter China using
only American passports containing Chinese visas.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated December 27, 2000, to
update sections entitled General Country Description, Entry/Exit
Requirements, Dual Nationality, Safety and Security, Crime, Medical
Facilities, Medical Insurance, Other Health Information, Traffic and Road
Safety Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Customs Regulations, Criminal
Penalties, Consular Access, English and Secondary School Teachers, Document
Seizures, Passport Confiscation, Childrens' Issues, Registration and Embassy
and Consulate Locations.