China Eases Border Restrictions

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Shanghai residents can finally enjoy a sense of freedom after the extended two-month lockdown. With many businesses and individuals resuming production and work activities, local policies for foreigners are being relaxed as a measure of recovery. As of June 6, 2022, foreign travelers who fall under specific categories will not need to apply for a PU letter for work purposes, as previously required.

The changes come amidst an effort to bolster confidence among foreign companies operating in Shanghai. In an attempt to ease the impact onset of the lockdowns, Shanghai officials held a series of meetings with large foreign enterprises and agreed to ease border requirements for foreign workers. More meetings will be held over June with major investors from various regions.

Who No Longer Needs a PU Letter?

The following categories of persons will no longer require a PU letter:

  • Foreigners who are in possession of a valid Notification Letter of a work permit and have been approved by local authorities to take up work in China.
  • A foreigner who is the dependent of a spouse that has legal authorization and approval to work in China. This applies also to children under the age of 18 who already based in China.

What is a PU Letter?

Recognized as a sort of an invitation letter, the PU Letter is a document required for foreigners to obtain during the visa application process for China.

Issued by the Chinese government, the PU letter was a mandatory part of applications for the M-visa, Q1/Q2 Visa, and the Z-visa up until June of 2022. Companies are responsible for following through with applications with the designated government administration for invited applicants.

What was the Purpose of the PU Letter?

Following the pandemic and heightened border restrictions, the PU Letter was brought back for visa applicants in an effort to tighten border control.

Similar documents and application procedures that foreigners may encounter as they apply for a visa include the Invitation Verification Notice or a statement of intent and urgency for F-visa applicants.

This presented itself as a challenge to foreign firms with regard to finding and retaining foreign talent. Foreign companies have often encountered problems and long waiting times when obtaining the document. The removal of this requirement is to encourage normal work and production resumption by foreign firms in Shanghai.

In certain circumstances, foreign travelers were considered on a case-by-case basis regarding their need for the PU Letter. For instance, individuals who had Chinese COVID Vaccination records or were recognized as part of “essential business activity in numerous industries” were exempted.

Why is This Good for the Immigration Process of Foreign Nationals?

In the past, the issuance of the PU Letter was used to limit the number of foreign travelers into the country, especially at the height of the pandemic.

For invited applicants in China, only those considered an essential part of the business were granted the PU Letter. A range of factors would be considered for each applicant on an individual level, regarding areas such as one’s role in the company, company credentials and the nature of their work, etc.

The PU Letter application process has historically been a difficult and time-consuming process for companies who hope to relocate their foreign employees and associated family members, with most applications lasting between 6 to 8 months from the first application step until the final documents are issued.

The high standards set by authorities for the consideration of each application have meant that numerous firms were rejected when requesting a PU Letter. Successful applicants would typically have to wait for 2-3 months, with accompanying family members often taking up to 4 months to finalize applications.

Latest Update on PU Letter Exemptions

Effective as of June 6, 2022, holders of a Z-visa (work), S-visa (private affairs) and Q-visa (family-reunion) will be exempt from having to apply for the PU Letter.

Invited applicants who are travelling on the basis of an M-visa (business) or F-visa (exchange visit) will still be required to apply for a PU Letter.

Immediate family members are eligible for the S1 or S2 visa to travel to China by obtaining an invitation letter from relatives who are based in China.

Regarding travel for tourism or study purposes, there is currently no applicable news pertaining to the PU Letter. The latest updates to the policy are applicable throughout all of China, and foreigners must be vaccinated prior to their arrival in China.

The Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office has recently confirmed the PU Letter notice. However, no official announcement has been declared. Therefore, all foreigners considering relocating to China should verify with their local embassy or consulate to find out if they are eligible for the PU letter exemption.

MSA in China

For over a decade, MSA has helped foreign companies with their business needs in China. Our main service areas include accounting, financial advisory and company set-up services, ensuring that you remain compliant and are on track for growth in China. Get in touch with us so that we can help you reach your business goals.