According to various sources, effective June 6, 2022, the following categories of foreign travelers will no longer be required to apply for a PU Letter, and they will be able to apply for a Chinese work visa/Z-visa to the relevant Chinese authorities abroad by presenting their Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit or proof of family relationship:
- Foreigners who have been approved by the competent authorities to work in China and hold a valid Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit.
- Foreign dependents whose spouse has been approved to work in China (including those who are already in the country), and their children under the age of 18 years.
The notice has been confirmed by the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office upon our enquiry. We believe that such policy changes will soon be extended to other provinces as well, based on reasonable assumptions. Below are some takeaways from the above-mentioned notice, which shall serve as a generic reference until official interpretation is revealed:
- Work/Z-visa, private affairs/S-visa, reunion/Q-visa application types are exempt from submitting a PU Invitation Letter.
- Foreign inbound travelers coming to China for other reasons, such as business/M-visa, exchange visit/F-visa application, still need to apply for a PU Invitation Letter.
- There is currently no news about the opening of visa applications for visa types such as tourism or study.
- As these developments are yet to be officially announced, we encourage you to confirm with your local embassy or consulate to know whether you are subject to this policy update and eligible for PU Letter exemption, especially those whose work permit is valid while the residence permit has expired.
What is a PU Letter?
The PU Letter for China (also known as an Invitation Letter) is a government-issued document that foreigners must receive before applying for several types of visas, such as M-visa or Q1/Q2-visas. Until the June 2022 provision, it was a must-have document also for Z-visa. The PU Letter is issued by the Provincial Foreign Affairs Office where the Chinese company who is inviting the applicant is located, and it is the responsibility of the company itself to apply for it through the respective local government administration.
PU letters were introduced during the epidemic outbreak to allow stricter border restrictions. This is not the first time that the PU Letter has been deferred for certain groups of travelers since the beginning of the pandemic. The Chinese government had previously announced that, in some cases, an Invitation Letter would be waived for people who had been inoculated with Chinese COVID-19 vaccines and who could provide an official certificate. However, foreign applicants still had to be assessed on an individual basis, since the official conditions for eligibility had simply been classified as “essential business activity in numerous industries,” which was a broad definition.
This article first appeared in Asia Briefing, published by Dezan Shira Associates. The firm advises international investors in Asia and has offices in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Russia and Vietnam.