How to return to China

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Tags: Returning researcher

The process of returning to China as a European Researcher after the opening

The process of returning is quite complicated and it can vary drastically depending on your circumstances and where you are heading to China. We asked some returnees that have already gone through the process to give advice – but please realise that this is not the definite guide – please look to your nearest embassy or representative of Chinese government for the most recent information.

  1. Get a one-time return visa. Your residence permit will not be enough, even if it is valid. Look to the nearest Chinese embassy to get a one-time visa for returning. They might ask you for a confirmation that you are still working for your employer in China or other documents to support that you need to be back to China.
  2. Find a plane ticket back to China. Please take into consideration that a lot of the aggregator websites showing the cheapest airfares are not working like in normal times. The number of flights going back to China is limited to 1 to 2 flights a week from a limited number of European cities to different cities in China. It is best you find which Chinese airline is flying from your country and check the airfares on their websites directly. The limited number of seats can cause difficulties in acquiring a ticket, also causing prices to be higher than usual.
  3. Before entering a flight to China from most countries you need to be able to show a negative test result of COVID-19. The results cannot be older than 3 days. The airline or Chinese embassy in each country will designate several testing clinics from which you can come directly with your results and possibly also have the test result approved by the local Chinese authority. If you are coming from another country you need to first take your results to the Chinese embassy in your country to get a confirmation document that the results are from a reliable clinic.
  4. Arrive early to the airport – the process of checking in will be longer than usual due to a special check on these extra documents. Additionally, when boarding the airplane your temperature will be checked and you asked to disinfect your hands and hand luggage. It is advisable to have your luggage wrapped in protective plastic sleeve at the airport as it will be heavily disinfected after landing and this might damage the luggage and its content.
  5. Throughout this whole process and in the airplane wear you will have to wear a mask at all times and change it every 4 hours.
  6. Bring a pen! In the airplane you will be asked to fill out a health declaration form which you will have to hand in immediately when arriving in China.
  7. When arriving in China you will either be flown directly to your city of destination for quarantine or rerouted to another city for 14 days quarantine (for example if you are flying to Beijing). Unless you have some special circumstances (like if you are a diplomat), you will not have the choice of which hotel you will go for quarantine.
  8. Before entering quarantine, you will need to go through extensive process of testing and border control that can take up to 6 hours. Make sure you are rested before leaving the airplane! There will be several “pit stops” on the way and the arriving passengers will be going through in batches. This will include going through a station where you hand in your health declaration, you will be interviewed with health officials who will go over your documents and negative test results again and direct you to a booth for another COVID-19 test, you will go through temperature measurement, and at the border control you might be asked specifically about your address and contact person before going through the normal passport control.
  9. Finally, you will be directed to your luggage and bus that will take you to the hotel where you will be quarantined. Sometimes you will have to pay for the bus so having some money on your WeChat wallet could be smart!
  10. At the hotel, you will have to wait until it is your batch’s turn to be checked in. You will be disinfected again and again you will be interviewed by the health authorities about the state of your health and information about address and contact person in China.
  11. The hotel will check you in and charge you for your stay. When and how much you will have to pay depends on where you will be quarantining but we have heard about numbers from 350 CNY to 800 CNY per day. They will also charge you for your meals during quarantine that can be something around 100 CNY per day.
  12. They will take your passport while in quarantine.
  13. In quarantine your situation will heavily depend on which hotel you will be quarantining in. You will be provided 3 meals a day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some people recommend you bring some extra snacks as an alternative in case the local meals do not fit your usual diet or if you would like some change once in a while. Please note though that you cannot bring with you fresh food into China under the current circumstances, so please make sure that the snacks you bring are allowed. Also make sure that you will be able to prepare the snacks – hotel rooms usually don’t have cooking equipment, but with an electric kettle you can do a lot!

  1. Fourteen days in isolation is a long a time – make sure you bring with you some entertainment like books or you VR device! Being able to keep some workout routine during the time can also be smart. Find some bodyweight exercises or even bring something like resistant bands to be able to not go totally without exercise during these two weeks. You will also not be able to go outdoors, so bringing some vitamin D supplements can be a smart choice. Small luxuries like your favourite coffee can go a long way to make the time more bearable.
  2. The hotel will certainly have an internet connection – but in case there are some problems it could be clever to make sure to sort out your Chinese phone number and make sure it is filled with credit before going!
  3. Having the WeChat account of the people in charge of your quarantine and the hotel can be good to have during the quarantine in case you need some questions answered or if you need something urgently. They will not always be able to communicate very smoothly in English, so if your Chinese has gone rusty while away, the WeChat translation feature is a godsend.
  4. While in the quarantine you will be contacted twice a day, in the morning and evenings, to be asked about your body temperature. You will be provided with a thermometer.
  5. When getting close to the end of the quarantine, you will be contacted about the next steps. If you are not at your final destination, your airline will contact you to establish how you can do the next leg of your travel. You will also be asked again to confirm the address of where you are heading so the local authoritites can be informed. You will be told when you will be able to check out in the morning after the 14 nights.
  6. By the end of your quarantine, you will also be summoned one more time for a last COVID-19 test. You will have to pay for it at site.
  7. When the 14 nights are over, you will be contacted and told when you can check-out. Your will get your passport back and if you need an invoice for your stay it would be best to make sure ahead that this will be provided, so you can pick it up at this point. You will be disinfected one more time and you will be given your certification of (hopefully) negative COVID-19 test. Please keep these documents, they will be asked about repeatedly in the following days.
  8. After the quarantine is finished, the process will start to divert depending on where you are going. If your original journey hasn’t finished yet (for example if you were re-routed on your way to Beijing) you will be driven to the airport or the train station where you will have to get your tickets, check-in for your flight etc.

If you are going to Beijing:

  1. For going to Beijing there will be some specific requirements – if you are going to other places in China, we recommend you contact the local authorities.
  2. When flying to Beijing domestically, you will have to go through some special registration at the security check. They will confirm once again where you are going in Beijing.
  3. Before boarding the airplane, the passengers will be asked to show their 健康宝, the health kit mini-app. As you just exited the quarantine you can show your negative test results certificate instead.
  4. After arriving in Beijing, you need to register with the local police station within 24 hours.
  5. You can get the Beijing Health Kit mini app on WeChat or Alipay. After you get it, you will need to register with your identifications. If you are using the English version of the app you will be able to put in your passport. The mini app is operated in a certain way – before entering most public places you will be asked to show the mini app. It will show either a green color code; or alternatively yellow or red.
  6. To get the green code you will need to go to your local neighborhood committee (居委会) with the police residence registration slip and your quarantine certification documents. They will ask you to fill out one more paper and you will go through 7 days Home observation. During that time you will be under medical observation at home, which means the neighbourhood committee will check your body temperature twice a day. This can be done by them visiting you, but also simply by calling them or through WeChat. During this time you will be asked to not engage in any unecessary activities – like going to bars and such.