The American Chamber of Commerce in China said that a US-China travel fast-track program, which allows for US business people and their families to travel more easily to China amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officially became effective on Thursday, following a consensus reached by leaders of the two countries during a summit last year.
The program aims to provide a more efficient, predictable, and reliable channel for essential US company executives, technical personnel and their dependents to enter China.According to the chamber, the program will enable qualified member companies to apply for a PU, or permission, letter from their local municipality and receive a reduced processing time and an increased likelihood of approval. Employees can then apply for a visa from the appropriate overseas Chinese embassy or consulate.
In terms of quarantine rules, travelers are required to adhere to China’s entry and health requirements. The requirements could change as conditions warrant.
Quarantine hotels are designated by local authorities and travelers under the program will not receive any special treatment with regard to quarantine, read the document.
Q1 Who qualifies for the Program?
AmCham Shanghai American companyemployees and their dependents who have an urgent need and necessity to enter China can participate in the program. The company must be registered in Shanghai and hold a valid business license in China. Individual applicants do not need to be American or currently located in the United States. Member companies can also apply on behalf of contractors or business contacts who need to travel to China to support their business.
Q2 What’s the difference between the US-China Fast-Track Travel Channel Program and regular PU letter application?
AmCham Shanghai will provide a cover letter and relevant materials to the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office (FAO) to expedite the PU letter issuance process. As part of the program, companies will submit the information directly to the Shanghai FAO (bypassing the district FAOs), reducing PU letter issuance time to approximately 5-10 business days. The Shanghai FAO oversees the PU letter issuance process and will make the final determination on PU letter approvals and processing times. Processing times and issuance of PU letters are not guaranteed.
Note: Companies are responsible for contacting their local district government to update them on their employees’ travel information and to prepare the district to make quarantine arrangements.
Q4 What’s the definition of an American company?
A company must meet at least one of the following criteria:Headquartered in the United States
Main source of funding comes from the United States
The actual controller is an American
Q5 What qualifies as an “urgent need and necessity” to travel to China?
The Chinese government has stressed that there are still strict Covid travel restrictions in place and that people should only travel if they have an “urgent need and necessity.” Applicants for PU letters must provide a compelling reason for why they need to travel at this time in their application.The FAO has not provided guidance on what they would consider to be a compelling reason, but it can be for critical business or personal reasons. The Shanghai FAO will make the final determination on whether the applicant meets the criteria.
Q6 Can family members be included on the PU letter application?
Yes. The primary applicant’s spouse and children under 18 years old can be included.
Q7 Can family members travel separately?
Family members travelling separately from the applicant can apply for and obtain the PU letter. After receiving the PU letter, family members must apply for a visa at the appropriate overseas Chinese embassy or consulate.
Q8 Which types of visas can people apply for under the US-China Fast-Track Travel Channel Program?
Depending on the purpose and duration of the visit, applicants can apply for M, Z, or S1 visas with the fast-track PU letter. Applicants should refer to embassies/consulates for specific guidance on visa types and length of validity. The embassies/consulates will make the final decision on visa issuances. Visa issuances are not guaranteed.
Q9 How long does it take for companies to hear back from AmCham Shanghai about the PU letter decision?
If companies have provided all required information correctly, they can usually receive the decision within 5 to 10 business days. This process can take longer if companies are asked to provide additional documents or correct submitted information.
Q10 Does the US-China Fast-Track Travel Channel Program impact quarantine measures?
Those in the program must quarantine upon arrival in China. Participants will either undergo the normal quarantine procedures that are in effect upon arrival or can pursue a “closed loop” quarantine. Arrangements for a “closed loop” quarantine must be made and negotiated with the local district government by the employees’ company prior to arrival in China.While the “closed loop” quarantine would allow participants to begin working onsite within a few days, they must remain in a “closed loop” environment in which they and anyone they come into contact with is separated from the general population. Companies must provide appropriate home and factory/office conditions that are in accordance with local regulations.
Q11 Does the US-China Fast-Track Travel Channel Program impact the visa application process at Chinese embassies and consulates and the green code process?
Participants must go through the regular process for both visa and green code applications. Participants may provide a letter from AmCham Shanghai to confirm that they are part of the US-China Fast-Track Travel Channel program, but this does not guarantee that the Chinese embassies and/or consulates will issue the visa or green code.
Q12 What happens if the information provided has changed after submission?
If the information provided is incorrect or has changed after submission, AmCham Shanghai and the company will need to resubmit the application.
Q13 What are the costs for participating in the program?
The cost per PU application will be 7,000 RMB. The price is in line with market costs for similar services and will help AmCham Shanghai to pay for the resources needed to create and maintain the program. Families traveling together on one PU application will pay for only one fee.
Q14 Can companies still use the regular channel to obtain PU letters?
The regular channel for PU letters is still open to companies. In the regular channel, companies must contact their district level Foreign Affairs Office to start the process. Please check with your district government for requirements and PU letter processing times.
Q15 What if I want to apply for a PU letter for a province besides Shanghai?
AmCham China and AmCham Shanghai are co-managing the US-China Fast-Track Travel Channel Program. Applicants interested in applying for a PU letter in Beijing can contact AmCham China. For other provinces, please contact AmCham Shanghai directly for guidance.
Q16 Is this Program supported by the Chinese government?
On November 29, 2021, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) formally approved this Program. MOFA also recently provided the Program content and policy advice to provincial Foreign Affairs Offices (FAO) in China, and China embassies and consulates.
Applicant Checklist: Before beginning the process of applying to use the Fast Track Travel Channel Program, AmCham Shanghai recommends members do a careful self-assessment on whether they would qualify.To qualify applicants must meet the following requirements:
Employee or under-18 dependent of an AmCham Shanghai member company or invited by an AmCham member company for business reasons.
AmCham Shanghai member company meets the criteria of being an American company.
AmCham Shanghai member company has a valid business license
Applicant has an “urgent need and necessity” to travel to China at this time.