Confusion still reigns over visas at border

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2008, 12:00am

Renewed uncertainty has broken out over Beijing's visa policy, with travellers saying Shenzhen visas are still being issued at the border.

Under visa restrictions announced last month, visitors to Shenzhen are supposed to obtain one beforehand.

But expatriates in Hong Kong say they have recently been given five-day Shenzhen visas at the crossing, despite an announcement they would not be available.

A posting on by a temporary resident from Australia was typical of what expats said they had encountered.

The man wrote that he had received a five-day visa last Saturday at the Lo Wu crossing for HK$150 - the price charged before the April 1 changes. The process took five minutes, he wrote.

A Hong Kong identity card holder who went to Lo Wu the weekend before that wrote that his party had managed to get five-day visas after a three-hour wait.

A Hong Kong travel agent said customers had reported that visas were being issued at the border to foreigners with Hong Kong identity cards.

The agency had not received official notification of any change in policy.

The new entry regulations for Shenzhen included the creation of a new two-day visa only available from the mainland visa office in Wan Chai, travel agents said. Applicants for the two-day visa do not have to provide a return travel ticket and hotel voucher, as they do for other mainland destinations.

But an Australian Hong Kong resident said a travel agent had said short-stay visas were not being granted and that a return ticket and hotel voucher were required to obtain a single- or double-entry visa for Shenzhen. There was no mention of the two-day visa.

Charis Perkins, a Sydney native who tried to get a Shenzhen visa during a recent holiday in Hong Kong, said: 'We went down to the China visa office in Wan Chai and there were queues extending around the block. We worked out that we would have to wait in a queue for a whole day and come back two days later and wait in a queue again to collect our visa.'

Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng said the group had not received any information from the Foreign Ministry about whether visas could be obtained at the border since the changes were announced last month.

The Office of the Commissioner for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong did not respond to questions about Shenzhen visas.

Spokesman Song Ronghua wrote to the Post last week to say the ministry was taking steps to ease visa procedures for foreign nationals living in Hong Kong.