Why Chinese Citizen Needs Visa Everywhere

I got an invitation from Prof. Tang (via Mingliang and Hua) of National University of Singapore to deliver a talk on a seminar there. Then, I visited the Singapore visa office very early in the morning to get a visa. Every time I apply for a visa, either for United States, Australia, Singapore, or other places, I cannot stop wondering why Chinese citizens need to apply visa for almost every country existing on this planet.

Henley Visa Restriction Index

Here is the Henley Visa Restriction Index of 2010. The score means the number of countries and territories which can be entered without a visa by a citizen of the respective country

Rank Score

1 United Kingdom 166

2 Denmark 164

3 Sweden 163

4 Finland 162

4 Luxembourg 162

5 France 161

5 Germany 161

5 Italy 161

5 Netherlands 161

6 Belgium 160

6 Japan 160

6 Spain 160

7 Ireland 159

7 Norway 159

7 United States 159

8 Austria 158

8 Portugal 158

9 Australia 157

9 Canada 157

9 New Zealand 157

10 Switzerland 156

11 Singapore 155

12 Greece 153

13 Iceland 151

13 South Korea 151

13 Malaysia 151

14 Liechtenstein 147

15 Malta 146

19 Hong Kong 140

25 Israel 133

28 Brazil 130

31 St. Kitts and Nevis 121

47 South Africa 88

48 Montenegro 86

49 Russian Federation 83

51 Dominica 80

65 United Arab Emirates 64

69 Thailand 60

71 India 57

74 Bosnia and Herzegowina 53

77 India 50

84 Egypt 43

84 Vietnam 43

88 Nepal 38

88 China 38

90 Pakistan 36

92 Iran 34

94 Lebanon 32

98 Afghanistan 26

China ranks 88 in all the countries, a little bit better (but not not significantly) than Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran, and Pakistan.

What’s up?

I am interested to know what are the 38 countries/territories that gives free visa access to Chinese citizen. I checked the list, and didn’t find too many countries I am familiar with. A note said, China was on their list mainly because they give free access to every country, so China was not intentionally excluded.

What is the reason? Can anyone familiar with this matter share some ideas about it?

My guess is, the root cause is the Chinese government. Currently, the only countries that China gives visa free status are: Negro Brunei Darussalam 文莱, Singapore and Japan. The visa free period is as short as 15 days.

Visa free status should be equal. If China requires visa for citizens of another countries, the common case is, they need to do the same, unless some countries who really don’t care about the diploma affairs.

Why China require visa? That is an even harder question to answer. I only knows the government even requires visa to its own territory like Hong Kong, Macau, and previous Shenzhen. Well, the politically correct version of visa is, the Hong Kong, Macau Pass – which can be only applied to another passport like booklet, but not passport – and adding additional burden and waste.

China also have the established Hukou system to effectively create a visa system within the country. People move harder within the country than most people moving across countries, and sometimes, it is harder to do it for Chinese citizen to move to another city than moving to another country (for example, moving to Shanghai is harder than moving to Canada and Singapore).

With that tradition, I believe it will take long enough for China to waive its visa for other countries, and longer for other countries to wave its visa requirements.

28 thoughts on “Why Chinese Citizen Needs Visa Everywhere

  1. DC

    the answer is because all other nationalities has to apply a visa when visiting China too. that is call bilateral relationship…

  2. Nick

    Its very simple. They want the fees. It keeps alot of people employed. You know when you exit and enter China you have to complete an entry and exit document even though they also scan your passport and log it electronically. I asked a high level party boss what they did with all these documents and if there was some secret warehouse with thousands of workers just matching these up everyday. She said they throw them away. Its just to give people work.

    You know the Hukou system is so the government can track everyone. You realize they now require you to ID yourself to get a new phone number so they can track people even closer. So your mobile number will not be private anymore. They can put you and your calls together. yes when you charge someone money they will also charge you.

  3. Давид

    I agree with @DC and @Nick.

    The next part of the answer is pretty obvious too. The current regime wants to keep track of potentially troublesome foreign nationals in China.

  4. Nancy

    Um, I think it’s NEGARA Brunei Darussalam, although I’ve only ever heard it called just Brunei (in the US).

    Also, would it be some great breach of diplomacy if China tracked who applied for outbound visas? Do they already do this, and don’t they already require some sort of exit permit?

  5. Will

    I also think it has to do with the countries economic standing and if it’s a developed, developing or least-developed country. From what I’ve heard a large part of the USA Visa Waiver program has to do with Visa Rejection rates for the whole country (<10% in some categories and <5% in other categories). Also there is the HUGE problem of people overstaying their visas and illegal immigration. People coming from a stable government (mostly western democracies though there are a few outliers like Singapore), have functioning services, legal agreements, etc have a tendency to follow the rules and not illegally immigrate. Also see the UN’s HDI: (Human Development Index): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index

    Basically for China *IT SHOULD* improve over time as China’s HDI score goes up and eventually within the next decade/era achieves near First World status. This also has to do with per-capita income (it should be nearing western levels). This is why citizens of South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Brunei in Asia have USA Visa Waiver status (visit the USA <=90 days with just online registration). Citizens of HK-SAR China (per capita income in that region is nearly 1/3 to 2/3 western levels) have visa free access to most of Europe and Canada for example. Same for Australia/New Zealand with a similar ETA (electronic visa) system where you don’t need to go in person, you can just apply online. The electronic system employed by the USA/Australia allows for quick online watch-list screening while allowing legitimate visitors and tourism. This is the same reason someone like you can easily get Visas for western countries because you speak fluent English, are educated (college degree), follow the rules and have the income to support yourself. This is COMPLETELY different for someone from the rural provinces in China just wanting to go to the USA for economic desperation. I believe the State dept. has a law that says that people trying to get a USA Visa must obviously prove that they can support themselves monetarily and also will return to their native country within the time-line and follow the law/rules.

    The Mexico problem in the USA is special because we have a physical border that is not 100% impossible to protect with a developing country that actually has higher per capita income than China ($8-10k USD/year 1/3rd of the US) and most of the illegal migrants are people crossing the border out of desperation. The legal ones all have legal means as mentioned above.

  6. jqian

    None of you mentioned the real reason. The real reason is China’s huge population and its relative poverty for majority of its population. Every country in the world is afraid of the risk of mass exodus from China if it waives visa requirement. Let’s take Singapore as example, if it gives a free visa to every Chinese, I can guarantee you that it will face immediate flood of people from China and that would lead to almost immediate social breakdown. As we know from common sense, Singapore enjoys one of the best social stability, wealth and superb education, even the rich classes in China love to live in Singapore, let alone less priviledged common citizens, farmers, and laborors. As soon as Singapore waives the visa requirements, 100 million people from China would just buy a plane ticket and travel to Singapore. Many among them would never want to return to China after they witness such a high quality of living in Singapore.

    If you extend this deeper mind set to every country in the world, you will understand why Chinese citizen has the highest restrictions for visas.

    This situation will not change unless one day wealth spread to most population, not just a few million fortunate rich classes.

    In the medium term, 30-50 years, most countries in the world would love to attract elite Chinese by granting them visas or issue permanent residentship. But they definitely would continue to use visa as an effective barrier to fend off mass population with lower income and social status. Use USA as a example, if you can pay $500K USD, they will grant you a green card. But if you are a farmer with no fixed assets or middle class income, you will never be able to get a US visa.

  7. Micah S

    Another thing to consider is this: what is the official route to Chinese citizenship for foreigners? The answer: none. This is another example of how the Chinese welcome foreigners, and a (small) reason for foreign countries to reciprocate.

  8. TianQin

    Visa is not always reciprocal. A US citizen can visit Malaysia without a visa. A Malaysian needs a visa to visit US. This is because of the economic disparity as mentioned above, the US does not want people to come and overstay.

    It would be great if China would issue visa for more than 1 year. It’s a hassle to get a visa so often. India offers 10 year visas. But I guess China does make some money on the visa fees. They charge more for US citizens than for other countries!

  9. DC

    Where do you apply your India visa? From Malaysia? If apply in China, you will be lucky if you get 1 year.

    This visa thinggy really a “create jobs” mechanism in China. You have use agents to renew so that you can have a smoother process and on time. Of course it comes with fee.

  10. GN

    So the story is… Chinese gov. wants to control where your about… other countries don’t want too many Chinese or anybody else… is that a full picture? I don’t know. If China Airline can make a deal with Canada (if you take China Airline you don’t need a visa to come to US through Canada, then there are other deals China can make… therefore for me, the control issue is THE issue… which is exactly the same as the Chinese hukou system. One can argue the poverty as the reason as how people argue about why there are terrorist… but if you can’t move from Shanghai to Beijing easily then poverty is not the key. Control, control, and control = power, power, and power.

  11. Matt Narciso | Canadian Immigration advocate

    China also have the established Hukou system to effectively create a visa system within the country. People move harder within the country than most people moving across countries, and sometimes, it is harder to do it for Chinese citizen.

    In addition to this, you may want to visit Triple” E” Immigration Services, a known for its expertise when it comes to immigration consulting. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, our company is acknowledged for its efficiency service in handling immigration concerns. Our team of competent and experienced Certified Canadian Immigration Consultants (CCIC) is ready to answer any of your inquiries.

  12. GN

    @Matt Narciso, I don’t mind so much of your promotion of your co. Can you explain why there can be a deal between China Airline, Cathy Pacific, and other two airlines… but not for Air Canada? What is the logic behind this… just simple as these 4 airlines have more eyes on people, or Air Canada is not good enough to “guard” its own country?

  13. name

    As a communist totalitarian regime, the government cannot allow its citizens to travel freely. It would not allow its citizens to have visa-free access to any foreign country. Remember what happened to the East Germany? East Germans’ free access to Hungary finally tore down the Berlin Wall.

    A few years ago, Chinese citizens could not leave the country if without an “exit visa”, which was condemned by the free world, and the authorities had to abolish it due to international pressures. Today, therefore, issuance of passports and foreign countries’ “entry visas” are the last two resorts the regime has.

  14. mwang

    I am totally agree with you..and it is our government required visa from other countries.

    For the equal principal, no country will treat us with visa free…

    That’s really sucks me…for paying a lot of time and money to apply visa.

    I hate china passport, and one of US citizen told me he had never seen any paper visas…only a lot stamps on his passport.

  15. jqian

    A lot of you got the picture upside down. It’s less an issue that Chinese government trying to make things tough by requiring visas from all countries. It’s more an issue that other countries desire to limit the risk of economic migration potential coming out of China were visa requirement removed.

    Think about it, Chinese government really doesn’t care to let go some of its citizens, even 100 millions letting go would not cause a dent to China because it’s huge population size. There will be economic gain if Chinese government allows more and more people to move abroad because they will send money back home. No, the cause is not from Chinese government, the cause is from other countries afraid to let economic migrants from China in.

    This situation will not change until one day that majority of population in China start to enjoy similar kinds of quality of living as that shared by people in developed nations. That’s going to take a very long time.

  16. dezza

    I Agree with JQian..he’s right. Go to any Chinatown in a western country and most of the waitresses/waiters, cooks are illegal immigrants who overstayed their visas..I met many of them in Canada and the US..

  17. KAMiKZ

    the bilateral thing is probably the answer. But deep down, who wants to let a portion of the 1.2bn to come when they delcare they are there to visit, then not leave and work under the table and give birth to someone inside that country to gain citizenship then that citizen help gain his/her parents citizenship for them.

    Things like Zerg comes to mind.

  18. ingrid

    china imposes huge visa fees on foreigners, it’s too good of a business opportunity to pass up. some bureaucrat’s swiss villa and bentley is subsidized by these visa fees

  19. Ko

    To Hiedler

    Obnoxious and reduculous comment. When Western people were still living in caves and throwing rocks at each other, China was already a well organized society. If you can’t offer a civil remark, go back to you cave. Thanks.

    To Ingrid

    This is not entirely true. I have traveled to many (more than 10) countries and ad Wang says, have to get the vias, so I compared:

    How much a visa costs in both directions

    How much paperwork is required

    How much time to get the visa

    What kind of qualifications are required and restritions applied

    Generally I found:

    :: In most cases, cost is reciricol or china is cheaper if you go by standard rate

    :: Most foreigners want the visa very quickly and chose the expedited service which is faster but more expensive

    :: China visa is generally much faster than the foreign visa is for Chinese

    :: Chinese visa is DEFINATELY simpler – very little information is required to apply and no special requirements like deposit the money, invitation letter, sponsor, etc. What many foreingners dont know about their own countries is they require very much information, interviews, invitations, financial gauruntee and so on and so forth. In fact, the first time I visted the USA I had to waint more than 6 mos for a visa and take 3 interviews! Crazy. Japan and Europe are also not so simple but not as bad as the USA.

    Your remark about swiss villas is not reasonable; it seems you assume all Chinese officials are corrupt. But if you visit you will find the opposite; the immigration officials are very efficient and polite. To my knowledge, china is the only country where there is an electronic box to rate the service in immigration, and if you were dissatisfied, hit the red button and that official will get a bad service rating which counts against job performance. Lets not talk about corruption and Swiss Banks – too long subject.

    However ….

    To be fair, in china, the first time a chinese national will go outside he needs to get the exit visa from china. In past, this could take months, but is no longer the case, now about one week or less.

    Regarding WHY. I agree with some others here the main thing I found is foreign governments concerned if chinese have enough money to visit their country or will over-stay, so in many cases thet impose the restrictions and require proof of financial responsibility.

    This is quite discriminatory and not recipricol. But in some cases is changing. For example, until about 2 years ago, Chinese tourist to Japan faced many restrictons and had to make financial deposit (really). Then came the global melt-down and suddenly chinese tourists are welcomed to Japan since they figured out Chinese actually spend more money then other tourists, because for most, they have saved money for years to travel and have obligations to bring back gifts, or have the money from friends to buy the foreign product such as iPhone/whatever. Recently I read the Japanse article where the saleman said “We love Chinese tourists! They are crazy, they buy everything in the shop.” I think that is true. Now in Tokyo most big shops have the chinese speaking sales clerks help you find things because they know the outcome. Bling-Bling.

    One other point.

    Because of 911, many countries made the serious restrictions. On the internet you can read Eropeans complaining about the US on this. However, I think we all need to accept this inconvennience because to be honest the world has terrorists and they now have the internet and other means to do evil, so the world is a less safe place. Just a fact, so I never complain about that.

  20. dengzhi

    Thanks for starting this topic Wang Jianshuo.

    Great summary Ko.

    reading these comments were very informational.. I too was wondering this for a long time.

  21. Qian

    It is such a pain to get visas WHEREVER you go as a Chinese citizen. I live in Canada and have my PR, but holding the Chinese passport restricts me to go almost everywhere, for work, or for personal pleasures. The process of getting visas from different countries requires courier my passport to different consulates. I get so nervous when i send my passport out, who knows if it would get lost on the way. It is just a big hassle to go through. All the trouble make me wonder if i should apply to be a canadian citizen, just because it’s easier to trouble….

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