On Wednesday, June 3, the U.S. Transportation Department announced that it would suspend passenger flights of four Chinese airlines to and from the United States starting June 16 (which are currently the only direct flights between the two countries), in response to China’s failure to let United Airlines and Delta Air Lines resume flights to China this month. Many commentators see this as a clear indication of rising tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
Is travel between the U.S. and China still possible?
Technically yes. This order is not a “travel ban.” The flight suspension order will not come into effect until June 16, and the two countries may be able to reach some kind of consensus or accommodation to avoid such suspension before that. Also, people may still take transfer flights to travel between the two countries even after the order is effective. However, you should still pay attention to the current COVID-19 related restriction orders, visa policies, and travel bans of the two countries.
Can a U.S. citizen enter China at this moment?
The National Immigration Administration of the PRC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC issued an Announcement on the Temporary Suspension of Entry by Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Chinese Visas or Residence Permits on March 26, 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 epidemic. All visas and resident permits, issued by China before March 28, 2020, are suspended. Therefore, a U.S. citizen cannot enter China with a visa issued before that date, regardless of the type of visa. A U.S. citizen is still allowed to enter China with a permit issued after that date until this interim restriction is lifted. A holder of a Chinese visa issued after March 28 can still enter China; however, Chinese visas are currently only granted under exceptional circumstances (for example, for international medical aid purposes).
Further, travelers who hold a valid visa issued after March 28 will still be subject to other epidemic prevention administrative measures in China, including a mandatory post-arrival nucleic acid testing and– even in the even that those test results are negative — a minimum 14-day quarantine in a designated hotel, all at the traveler’s expense, of course.
Can a Chinese citizen enter the U.S.?
According to the decisions and instructions of the State Department, generally, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have traveled in China within 14 days of their arrival, regardless of their citizenship, will be denied entry into the United States.
Can an American citizen return to the U.S. from China?
Yes. However, pursuant to the decisions and instructions of the State Department, U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province within 14 days of their return will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine. U.S. citizens who have been in other areas of mainland China within 14 days of their return will undergo proactive entry health screening and up to 14 days of self-quarantine with health monitoring to ensure they have not contracted the virus and do not pose a public health risk.
Let us do the work, so you don’t need to travel
We still do not know whether the restriction order will eventually be implemented on June 16, as the two countries are engaging in active conversations at this moment to avoid the flight suspension situation. However, regardless of the result, it should be noted that the Global Level 4 Health Advisory is still in effect at this moment, and we are all advised by the State Department and the CDC not to travel at all, if possible.
YK LAW is one of the few U.S. law firms that have a strong China Practice team. We have PRC admitted attorneys in both our New York and California offices, and we have a strong affiliation relationship with Yingke Law Firm, the largest law firm in China with 78 offices and more than 9,000 attorneys covering every province in China.
We understand that travel is essential if you have business in both of the countries, as many important matters require your personal attention. However, when talking about legal matters, there have been many changes in both of the countries for the purpose of avoiding international travel. For example, many courts in both China and the U.S. are allowing hearings and even trials to be done by video calls. Online notarization is now permitted in many states in the U.S. and some provinces in China. If you need a Power of Attorney or similar documents to empower someone else to handle business or personal affairs for you, we can also help you prepare such legal documents (bilingual, if needed) and in compliance with the laws of both jurisdictions.
Our local teams in both countries will be happy to assist you in handling many different types of legal matters so that you don’t need to risk your health to travel.