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China relaxes visa, urban residency rules to boost economy

China eases visa rules for foreign businesspeople, enhances rural-urban migration, and implements 26 measures to revive the economy hit by slow consumption and a property crisis.



BEIJING, CHINA — China will allow some foreigners to obtain visas on arrival and rural residents to settle more easily in cities as part of a series of measures aimed at boosting its flagging economy.

The relaxations aim to “promote the free movement” of “people, vehicles, information and data”, an official from the Ministry of Public Security said Thursday.

China’s post-COVID recovery has run out of steam in recent months, dragged down by sluggish consumption and a real estate sector in crisis.

GDP growth increased by just 0.8 per cent from the first to the second quarter of the year, and youth unemployment has reached record highs at over 20 per cent.

In response, the ministry announced 26 new measures on Thursday, including a new visa policy for foreign businesspeople.

Those who come to China to participate in trade negotiations, expos, conferences or to invest will be able to obtain visas on arrival, provided they present the necessary documents.

Previously, travellers had to apply for a visa at a Chinese embassy or consulate in their country of departure.

Also announced Thursday was a further relaxation of the controversial permanent residence system, or “hukou”, which for decades has classified Chinese people as either “urban” or “rural”.

Chinese citizens are entitled to settle, live and work in any location across the country.

But because of the residence system, they can only benefit from certain public services, including health insurance and education, where they are registered — generally their place of birth.

This arrangement, which is nominally aimed at avoiding unbridled urbanisation, in practice causes many Chinese to give up settling in the city due to the difficulties of attaining full access to public services.

To soften these restrictions, China will “further relax registration requirements” and “encourage people from the countryside who have the ability to work and live in the cities to settle there with their family”.


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