Strict European entry restrictions for Chinese – what will happen in the future?

The German Embassy and other European embassies in China have been imposing very strict entry restrictions on Chinese for over a year. Here you can find out the reasons, and if and when this will change.

Who are affected by the entry restrictions?

The entry restrictions only affect Chinese applying for visas from European embassies from China. If Chinese apply for visas at European embassies in other countries, for example in the USA or Australia, the entry restrictions do not apply.

The restriction on issuing visas for the following travel purposes is affected:

  • Schengen visas (i.e. short-term visiting stays) for tourist purposes, business purposes
  • National visas (i.e. long-term stays) for employment (work permit, EU Blue Card, ICT Card …)

The following travel purposes are still possible without restriction:

  • Schengen visas for urgent family visits or other private purposes
  • National visas for self-employment, family reunification, students, visa for re-entry after loss of residence permit during stay in China.

Sonnenberg Law Firm Note: even with the unrestricted travel purposes, the Embassy is creating significant delays by introducing new requirements or tests that did not previously exist. In the checklists of the embassy many conditions are formulated, which are unclear and will be examined in practice in each individual case. Here, too, one must be prepared for longer procedures and more queries and not lose patience and ambition.

What are the entry restrictions?

The issuance of a visa for business purposes or for work in Germany is now only possible if

“… there is an important interest of Germany in the entry of the person concerned. This interest may be, for example, the regional economic importance of the company, its interconnectedness within (supply) chains, or the number of jobs created.”

This is the official reason given by the authorities involved. The embassies therefore require

“a letter of support from German federal or state authorities attesting to an important interest of Germany in the entry of the individual.”

Therefore, obtaining the letter of support is currently the main problem for any visa application to travel for business or work in Germany.

A “letter of presence” from the employer or business partner justifying the urgency of the trip from their perspective must also be submitted.

The issuance of visas to visit family members is very restrictive. Urgent reasons are required, such as the birth of a (grand)child in Germany. And even then, the visa will not be issued for 90 days as before, but only for 30 days.

Note from the Sonnenberg Law Firm: it is often possible to extend the 30-day Schengen visa to 90 days at the local immigration office. Many immigration authorities are not as strict as the embassy. Remember to extend travel medical insurance accordingly.

Lawyer’s practice report: Chinese employers particularly affected

The entry restrictions for Chinese employers in Germany have a particularly strong practical impact. The requirement of the letter of support practically makes it possible for them to send personnel from China to Germany only in individual cases.

Each state has its own practice in awarding the letter of support. While Hamburg and Bavaria, for example, are particularly strict, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia are more generous. However, the German embassy in China also knows this, which in turn examines the letters particularly critically.

However, it is still possible to obtain visas to work, you just need more perseverance. In addition, it can be observed that globally active Chinese companies are starting to send Chinese from branches in countries other than China to Germany. Because then the restrictions do not apply.

Can Chinese companies continue to establish a subsidiary, e.g. GmbH in Germany?

As a rule, the issuance of a visa for business travel is no longer possible. As a result, investors can no longer meet necessary deadlines such as a notary appointment or a bank appointment in Germany. Nevertheless, the establishment of the company is still possible. For notarizations can be made at the German Embassy in China. And at selected banks, identification of the bank account holder can now be done by video conference, so there is no need to visit the bank in Germany.

Why do European countries impose entry restrictions on Chinese and for how long?

The European entry restrictions are a response to China’s entry restrictions on Europeans and other foreigners. China introduced its strict entry restrictions as a result of the COVID19 pandemic and did not relax them when the global pandemic situation eased and Germany and Europe were no longer considered high-risk areas. European companies have still not been able to send their staff to China and have been hit very hard economically as a result. In their view, there was and is no longer any reason for the Chinese restrictions. Lower restrictive means such as quarantine and testing would also be possible. They put pressure on the relevant European ministries to do the same as China and introduce travel restrictions until China drops its restrictions. That is the situation today.

The USA, for example, shows that this does not necessarily have to be the case. Their citizens, like Europeans, fall under Chinese entry restrictions. However, the U.S. has not imposed entry restrictions in return.

In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Economics has instructed the states to be particularly strict in awarding letters of support. However, this is implemented differently because some locations have more China-friendly policies than others, or Chinese investors are more important to them than elsewhere. There also seems to be a growing realization that things cannot go on like this and that German business locations will ultimately harm themselves if, for example, they stop the influx of skilled workers from China.

A change of political course is not in sight. Neither is China expected to ease its entry restrictions, nor is Europe expected to change its response. Sonnenberg’s law firm therefore currently assumes that the entry restrictions will not be eased in 2022.