Beijing is tightening its migration policy. How does this affect Russia?
Not so long ago the Consulate General of China in Irkutsk notified the Russians that starting from July 17, 2023 they will have to submit fingerprints for obtaining visas to China. The diplomatic mission referred to the legislative and regulatory acts of China, as well as generally accepted international practice.
People under the age of 14 or older than 70, holders of diplomatic and official foreign passports, as well as those who have damaged all ten fingers will be able to obtain visas without fingerprints. The Consulate General also reminded that fake fingerprints or an attempt to impersonate another person in order to submit fingerprints "will result in the refusal of entry into China and will lead to appropriate consequences for this citizen.
And these are not empty warnings. Over the past five years, PRC public security authorities, as well as migration authorities across the country, in accordance with the law, have investigated and adjudicated 528,800 foreigners, who illegally entered, stayed or worked in China. Of this number, 351,000 have been deported. This is reported in a published statement of the National Migration Administration of the PRC. Most likely, these people now have no way back.
In general, Chinese migration authorities are extremely tough on foreigners who violate migration laws. In fact, the migration rules in China are very complicated for those who want to come or settle in China, not to mention obtain a residence permit. To put it mildly, foreigners who expect to settle in the Celestial Empire are not very welcomed here.
Of course, there are exceptions. They relate mainly to those who are married to Chinese citizens, as well as highly qualified specialists. Although obtaining a long-term work visa for so-called "laowai" (foreigners) is also not a quick and easy process. In some cases it requires the involvement of local lawyers, considerable funds and ingenuity. This is how the Chinese authorities protect the local workforce from excessive competition from foreigners and also prevents criminal elements from entering the PRC. The millions of migrants who come to Russia legally and illegally are unthinkable in China.
Recently, PRC migration laws have become even stricter.
"The PRC authorities are tightening measures aimed against the illegal stay of foreigners in the country, including illegal entry, residence without registration, on expired visas and passports, illegal labor activities and related tax crimes," the Russian Embassy in Beijing warns on its website.
In order to work in China, one must obtain a "work permit" and a temporary residence permit of the "working" category. The concept of "illegal employment" has been introduced, i.e. working in the country in the absence of a "work permit" and a temporary residence permit of the "working" category. And work that does not correspond to the declared in the "permit" is also an offense. Illegal employment of foreigners is subject to a fine of 5 to 20 thousand yuan (over 220 thousand rubles), with aggravating circumstances applies detention for a period of 5 to 15 days in addition to the fine.
It should be borne in mind that any foreigner (entered with or without a visa) who arrives in China must obtain a temporary registration in the country within 24 hours. Those who fail to do so could face a fine of 500 yuan (5.5-6 thousand rubles) for each day of delay. And this rule is strictly enforced, as the migration authorities and the police closely monitor this.
The caution of the Chinese migration authorities also affects Sino-Russian exchanges, including tourist ones. In particular, the regime of visa-free tourist group exchanges, which worked during the period before the COVID-19 pandemic, has not yet been resumed. However, there has been some progress. Not so long ago Khabarovsk Krai authorities agreed with the Chinese side on the possibility for Russians to get Chinese visas upon arrival in the Chinese city of Fuyuan. This city used to be a busy point on the path of mutual tourist exchanges.
On June 27, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation announced that visa-free transit of Russian citizens traveling through China would be possible. However, under strict conditions: if a Russian citizen does not expect to leave the transit zone of the Chinese airport, and the duration of stay in it does not exceed 24 hours. In other cases, it is required to obtain the appropriate transit visa. In this case the programs of the local authorities functioned before the pandemic COVID-19, which provided for a visa-free stay of foreign citizens in the territory of China for 72 or 144 hours with the possibility of exit from the airport transit area, have not been resumed yet.
Given Russian-Chinese relations, it would be logical to expect an expansion of opportunities for mutual humanitarian exchanges in the current situation. Russians would be happy to travel to China, including to the sunny island of Hainan in the south of China, and the Chinese to their traditional places of pilgrimage in Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ulyanovsk, and other cities.
In February 2023, Russia and China announced the resumption of an agreement on visa-free group travel, which had been suspended during the pandemic. It allows groups of 5 to 50 people to stay in the country for 15 days. But in fact, the system has not started to work yet. According to the statement made by Dmitry Vakhrukov, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, at SPIEF-2023, the agreement is supposedly to be restarted in the first half of July. The ball seems to be in the Chinese side, and we are awaiting a decision from the partners.
However, the information comes now that probably the agreement may not resume until the end of this year due to the fact that the Chinese agencies have not formed a list of Chinese tour operators who will be allowed to carry out a visa-free exchange.
By the way, only recently visa-free entry was restored for citizens of Kazakhstan, which was in effect in the 1990s and 2000s. In May of this year, during the visit of Kazakh President Tokayev to Beijing, an intergovernmental agreement was signed on mutual exemption of visa requirements for citizens of the two countries for tourist and business trips. It concerns trips for the period not exceeding 30 calendar days from the moment of crossing the state border. In total it is allowed to stay without visa for 90 calendar days within six months. And this can be considered as a great achievement of the Kazakh side.