Washington, DC – Apparent concerns over the H1N1 flu outbreak prompted China to suspend its fast turnaround service for U.S. visa applicants and require a listing of the states and countries they have recently visited.
The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS) said in an advisory that the Chinese Embassy in Washington had informed them that the processing time for a tourist or business visa to travel to China had been extended to six business days. The Rush and Express services were “temporarily unavailable.”
Applicants must also now fill out a one-page declaration stating which U.S. states and countries they have visited in the past two weeks.
Steve Sind, president and CEO of Global Event Strategies, said the change could trip up U.S. citizens heading to China for trade shows. “Up until May 5, I would have been able to get a visa to China in 24 hours through most visa services,” Sind told Trade Show Executive. “Most people who have been going to China regularly know that they can do this and wait until the last minute. Now it will take six days, so they could be caught off guard if they did not know this has changed and their trips may be delayed.”
The Commercial Service said in a notice to exhibition industry executives that visa applicants were being told by embassy staff members that the new rules were in response to the flu outbreak.
The Chinese government did not give an official reason for the changes; however, they come amid stringent steps by Beijing to keep the so-called swine flu out of China. Several tourists from North America have been quarantined by Chinese authorities and pork imports have been restricted even though scientists insist the virus is not transmitted through pork.
Sind said he did not believe the new declaration requirement would result in applicants being turned down if they have obtained visas in the past without any trouble.
Reach Steve Sind at (520) 751-2402 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Angela Pinckney, administrative officer, USFCS Office of Domestic Operations, at (202) 482-6340 or email@example.com; the Chinese visa office in Washington at (202) 328-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org