Guangzhou signs up for 72-hour visa scheme
Service will be available to citizens of 45 countries, but not Norway
Guangzhou is set to become the third mainland city to offer 72-hour transit visas to travellers from dozens of countries.
The city's inclusion in the short-term visa scheme was announced yesterday by provincial authorities who described it as a boon for tourism in the Pearl River Delta. Beijing and Shanghai introduced the visas last year.
Those eligible for three-day stays from August 1 include travellers from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The list names 31 countries in Europe, six in Asia and six in the Americas.
Norway is a notable exception. Oslo has had tense diplomatic relations with Beijing since dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. But both sides appeared to be mending fences after a senior Chinese official said in May that their once-stalled free-trade pact talks were nearing completion.
Eligible travellers arriving at Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport will be allowed to stay for three days, provided that they stay in Guangdong province.
Perth travel agent Elizabeth O'Donoghue said the visa change would make a difference for Australians travelling to Europe via Guangzhou. "People will be much more likely to stop; there's a lot to do in Guangzhou," she said.
Travellers seeking the visa must have an outbound plane ticket to a third country. Those returning to their country of origin will not be eligible, nor will those arriving by bus, train or ferry from Hong Kong or Macau.
Meanwhile, the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office has announced an overhaul of the visa system for longer stays.
High-level professionals "whose skills are urgently needed" will be eligible for new "R" visas. A new "Q" visa will be offered to those travelling to China to visit relatives. Two other categories - business and tourist visas - have been split, raising the total number of categories from eight to 12.
The office aims to standardise services, clarify the circumstances of illegal residence and safeguard national security, Xinhua reported. The changes take effect on September 1.
Additional reporting by Zhuang Pinghui