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Home / General Travel Tips /
XYZ Consular Info: China

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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 on 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 standards.
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 arrival.
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 visa@china-embassy.org. 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 flights.
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) 6462-9111.
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 china.marketing@internationalsos.com.
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 100016
Beijing Office Fax: (86-10) 6465-1240 or (86-10) 6465-1269
Email: medexasst@aol.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: bigbandaid1@yahoo.com.
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 China.
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 atacarnet@uscib.org 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 officials. The U.S. Government strongly recommends that all Americans enter China using only American passports containing Chinese visas.
Click Here for File 2 China Consular Info 2 * * *
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.