Traveling to China: Part 1—Getting Into China

Especially in the last decade, China has held the world’s attention from an economic, cultural and governance standpoint. As China evolves, so do business interests and the need for effective business aviation operations. The good news is that China is embracing business aviation and is racing to build an infrastructure to meet the demand. In exchange, China asks that you understand the rules and nuances that go along with a visit to their country.

For our two-part series on travel to and around China, we asked our experts (based both in the US and China) to share their best advice for an uneventful trip. Here’s what they said:

  1. Say What You’ll Do. Do What You Say.—The airspace over China is controlled by China’s Air Force, and they run it like only a military can. They issue the required permits, and with them comes an expectation that they will be followed to the letter. Other countries might approve permits within a few hours of a flight or offer some flexibility, but not China. Permits are approved 24 working hours in advance (minimum) and are to be followed to the letter including flying along approved routes and entry/exit points.
  2. You Get Two Permit Revisions—Getting permits to fly into China is a balancing act between applying as soon as possible, and waiting until all the trip details are confirmed. So, use your two revisions wisely. What if you need a third revision? Plan to reapply, move to the end of the line and begin the permit process all over again.
  3. Parking is Paramount—Despite appearing as the third point on the list, parking could easily be the first. It’s that important. Real estate is expensive and at a premium around China’s major airports. Ground handlers are only able to confirm parking 24 hours before landing. Research alternate parking spots at lesser-used airports, and don’t be afraid to use one. Revise your permit if you do.
  4. 72-hour Travel Without a Visa—To help business travelers making quick trips, China is allowing passport holders from one of 51 countries Visa-free entry into China through one of 18 Chinese cities. To qualify, a traveler must exit China within 72 hours of arriving, and must be traveling to a third destination (a tech stop in an approved third country before returning home counts as a third destination).
  5. Slots are at a  Premium—Apply for slot and landing permits for Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen at least four working days in advance. While the need to apply for the permits at these popular points of entry is not surprising, the required lead-time might be.
  6. Flight Crew “C” Visa—One of the most overlooked details in traveling to China is that flight crews require a “C” visa to enter China. And, unlike other countries, they cannot be issued upon arrival (with one exception). C visas must be applied for and approved in advance. Sending an additional flight crew to China to take over crew duties? Make sure they enter on a C visa even though the first leg of their trip is as a commercial airline passenger. Please remember to notify the ground handler if your crew will enter via a commercial airline holding a C visa; otherwise, that crew will be detained by an immigration officer.
  7. As mentioned above, there is an exception to this rule: If a crew is entering Shanghai (either through Hongqiao or Pudong International Airports), they can get a C visa upon landing. To do so, copies of passports must be submitted five days in advance, the crew must take with them two pieces of photo ID each, and you must pay an additional service fee. This policy is subject to change, so please confirm each time before using it.
  8. Watch Taiwan—Despite the proximity, don’t plan on flying over or stopping in Taiwan on your way to China. Or vice versa. The relationship between these two locales is strained and travel in or over one on the way to the other will get noticed in a permit application—right before it gets denied.
  9. There are two exclusions to this rule that are noteworthy. First, if your aircraft is Chinese or Taiwanese “B” registered, than you can fly freely between the two locations (assuming your flight is private non-commercial). The second exclusion is that Hong Kong and Macau are NOT considered part of China. So, you can move freely from those cities to Taiwan.
  10. Aircraft Disinsection—If you’re arriving from a country that has been targeted as a virus threat, then a Certificate of Residual Aircraft Disinsection will be required before landing at Shanghai (and that list will likely grow). If you don’t have a certificate (or a recently emptied can of approved insecticide), plan to have your airplane immediately quarantined and sprayed at the door before passengers are allowed to exit. Then, your airplane will be immediately sprayed on the inside once the passengers have deplaned. You should also expect a hefty bill.
  11. VIP Handling—The major points of entry (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen) are very well versed in customs procedures. Nearly all offer VIP handling for your passengers. While the fee can creep into the thousands of dollars, most find it worth the price as customs clearances usually take place in the FBO, the screeners are practiced in dealing with VIPs efficiently and professionally, and the time savings in transit to-and-from another facility to clear customs can pay for itself.

Recent changes in the procedures to enter China indicate a movement toward the norms of the rest of the world. However, they aren’t there yet. Once in China, you and your passengers will find the people to be friendly, welcoming, proud of their culture, and excited to introduce you to it.

To learn more about entry into China, please visit the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) web site. Your country’s state department or Chinese embassy web sites are also good sources of information. Here are links to the United State’s State Deptand Chinese Embassy sites. Jeppesen’s International Trip Planning Service (ITP) also offers unparalleled experience and insight, including planners and schedulers based in Beijing, to help operators make a seamless entry into China. Learn more about Jeppesen’s ITP services, contact your trusted Customer Service representative directly, email or call (800) 353-2108.

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