February 27, 2021
Due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many students may find their study plans affected.
While CLI is currently open to students who are already in mainland China, new COVID-19 cases have appeared in China recently and the country’s domestic travel policies are subject to change with little advance notice. As of this writing on February 4, 2021, CLI is currently not accepting students who are not already in China.
To help students understand their options during this confusing time, we will post frequent updates to this page to keep our community informed about both the latest China travel restrictions and how COVID-19 is affecting CLI.
Table of Contents
- The Situation in China
- The Situation at CLI
- Check Back for Regular Updates
The Situation in China
By and large, the pandemic is under control in China. Over the winter months, however, there has been a small spike in China’s case numbers. Many of the recorded cases have been “imported,” meaning they were identified in passengers arriving in China from abroad. There has also been some community transmission.
There have been some small-scale local outbreaks in various parts of China, most recently in northern and northeastern China, with the largest outbreak centered in Shijiazhuang, Hebei. Some cases have also been identified in big international cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Widespread testing and effective contact tracing and quarantine measures put in place by the Chinese government tend to mean that these local outbreaks are quickly contained.
Frequent travel in China during the Spring Festival travel rush has the potential to cause further outbreaks. The Chinese authorities are taking this threat very seriously and have put in place a variety of different measures aimed at limited holiday travel and controlling the spread of the virus during the holiday period.
Areas where outbreaks are currently occurring are referred to as “high risk areas” (高风险地区 gāo fēngxiǎn dìqū) and “medium risk areas” (中风险地区 zhōng fēngxiǎn dìqū) and people who have recently visited these areas face stricter restrictions than other travelers.
Who Can Enter China as of February 4, 2021
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, China still has a variety of coronavirus-related travel restrictions in place. These restrictions change frequently and can vary depending on your country of origin as well as your destination province within China.
In addition to consulting the following information, we recommend checking with your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate for the latest information regarding COVID-related travel restrictions.
Entry into Mainland China for most non-Chinese nationals holding valid visas has been suspended. Limited exceptions exist. Foreigners holding diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas are still permitted to enter.
Foreigners who hold visas that were issued outside of Mainland China after March 28, 2020 are allowed to enter. Technically, it is possible to apply for a new Chinese visa at this time, but in general, these visas will only be issued to foreigners who must come to China for emergency humanitarian needs or to engage in what the Chinese government deems necessary technological, scientific, economic or trade activities.
Foreigners whose intended activities are considered “necessary” usually need to obtain a special invitation letter, known as a PU Letter, from the Chinese government before they can apply for a Chinese visa.
China’s various visa-free transit policies have also been suspended, including visa-free transit for cruise ship passengers and tour groups from ASEAN countries. Port visas are suspended, as is entry for those holding APEC Business Travel Cards.
In November 2020, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that foreigners from certain countries who hold valid Chinese residence permits for personal affairs, family reunion and work can return to China without applying for a new visa. Entry into China by foreigners holding permanent residence permits (Chinese green cards) is not restricted.
Tourists and students from most countries are still prohibited from entering China at this time. Recent changes allowing some foreigners with valid residence permits to return to China do not apply to those holding valid residence permits for study.
Some students from South Korea are now able to enter China thanks to an agreement between the Chinese and South Korean governments. However, most schools in Guilin, including CLI, are not able to accept South Korean students who are not already physically in China at this time.
There is still no word on when students from most other countries will be allowed to enter China, but the loosening of restrictions for South Korean students and recent promising COVID-19 vaccine news seem to be encouraging signs.
COVID Test Requirements
Even if you are currently allowed to enter China, you will still need to comply with a variety of public health measures put in place by the Chinese government, including strict testing and quarantine requirements for all overseas arrivals.
All passengers whose destination is China, including Chinese nationals, must present both a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test and a negative serological test for IgM antibodies before boarding their flight.
These “dual negative” results must be for tests that were performed within 48 hours of departure. These results must also be approved by your local Chinese embassy or consulate before you can get on the plane.
Because passengers transiting through other countries may be required to take these tests a second time in their transit country and provide the new results to the airport authorities before catching their next flight, anyone traveling to China should try to book a direct flight to avoid test-related complications.
Upon entering China, passengers must spend 14 days in quarantine at their own expense, which will be monitored by Chinese authorities and will take place at a designated location. For travelers arriving in Shanghai, there is also an option to do the first seven days of quarantine at a designated location and the next seven at home.
As of this writing in February, 2021, quarantine is generally not required for those traveling within China from one mainland Chinese province to another. During the Spring Festival travel rush, however, some smaller cities and towns are requiring people arriving from high or medium risk areas within China to undergo testing and quarantine. Local policies change quickly so travelers are strongly advised to check with the local authorities before departure. Please note that Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan have separate travel restrictions.
Travel Between Provinces
Travel between provinces is currently allowed in China, although unnecessary long-distance travel is discouraged. Unfortunately, travel between provinces is especially difficult for foreign nationals at this time. Although the Chinese authorities do not officially condone discrimination based on nationality, we have received multiple anecdotal reports that some hotels are refusing to accept foreigners even when they are able to present a green health code (see Green Health Code Requirements section below).
If you do want to travel from one province to another, you’ll be asked to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past 7 days.
Travelers who have recently been to or are coming from an area that has recently been designated as “high” or “medium risk” may face additional restrictions when traveling within China.
Whether required or not, masks are being worn regularly in public spaces throughout China. Different cities have different requirements, which can change quickly.
In general, masks should be worn in crowded places and on public transportation. They are required in certain places, such as on trains. If you aren’t already wearing one at all times in public spaces, we encourage you to do so. Be sure to check the surrounding area for signs indicating whether or not masks are required.
Green Health Code Requirements
Early in the pandemic, China worked with WeChat and Alipay to roll out an app that helps track people’s exposure to the novel coronavirus. Based on how people fill out a questionnaire which presents questions about recent travel and symptoms, people are assigned a “health code” which is then used by authorities to control their movements.
People with a green health code (绿码 lǜmǎ) are generally permitted to travel where they please, but restrictions are placed on those with yellow or red health codes. These codes are still very much in use throughout China and have become a big part of daily life.
Without a green health code in hand, it isn’t possible to do things as mundane as using public transportation or checking into a hotel. Foreigners in the country are also expected to download this health code tracking system.
Local School and University Restrictions
Although Chinese schools and universities cancelled almost all in-person instruction during spring semester 2020, most schools and universities have resumed in-person instruction as of February 2021.
The resumption of in-person learning at most schools does not mean that things have completely returned to normal, however. Many schools have implemented a variety of strict infection control measures. Universities, in particular, have implemented “closed” and “semi-closed” campus management systems, which involve not allowing students to leave campus unless absolutely necessary.
In order to enter campus at many schools, students and faculty need to show identification, have their temperature checked, and present a green health code.
General Visa Guidance from the Chinese Government
The pandemic is currently ongoing, and the situation is evolving rapidly. Check the Chinese Embassy’s website (here in English and here in Chinese) for official updates from China’s National Immigration Administration. Before attempting to wade through China’s official pandemic-related announcements, consider brushing up on your coronavirus-related Chinese vocabulary.
If in the United States, we also encourage you to join Swift Passport & Visa Services email listserv for ongoing updates (see bottom right corner of Swift’s homepage to sign up for email alerts).
The Situation at CLI
Aside from hosting significantly fewer Immersion Program students in 2020 and so far in 2021, the situation for our students and team in Guilin has more or less returned to normal. Unfortunately, we cannot accept students applying to study in China from abroad at this time due to Chinese government travel restrictions (see Who Can Enter China section above). If you are already in China, however, we can’t wait to welcome you to CLI!
Life in Guilin and at CLI has mostly returned to normal, although mask wearing is still quite common and is required in some places. Students arriving in Guilin from other parts of China who are in possession of a green health code (see Green Health Code Requirements section above) are not required to quarantine upon arrival.
As an added precaution, CLI does require all students arriving in Guilin from other parts of China to present a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test (核酸检测 hésuān jiǎncè) taken within the past 7 days to CLI staff before beginning their studies. Students should complete their COVID tests in the city that they are coming from before departing for Guilin as they may also be asked to present their test results at the airport or train station.
Unlike Chinese universities, CLI has not instituted a closed management system (discussed in the Local School and University Restrictions section above). Therefore, CLI students are free to enter and exit the CLI Center whenever they please.
CLI does not restrict students from leaving Guilin. If students would like to travel on the weekends, they can do so. That said, however, as a result of the pandemic, travel within China is not as convenient as it normally is.
Students who choose to leave Guilin risk getting caught in the middle of any new outbreaks that may occur. They may also have difficulty finding hotels at which to stay (see Travel Between Provinces section above). Therefore, CLI strongly encourages students to stay in Guilin or restrict their travel to nearby destinations such as Yangshuo.
Most of our program offerings are actively available, depending on your current location. Below is a detailed explanation of the current state of each one:
CLI’s Chinese Immersion Program is still going strong! While we cannot accept students coming from outside China at this time, all students who are already in China are welcome to participate.
Both short and long term in-person immersion programs are available, and you can start on any Monday of the year, although we will be closed during the Chinese Spring Festival holiday. If you are currently in China, consider using that time productively by studying Chinese in Guilin!
Study Abroad in China
Unfortunately, we have paused our for-credit Study Abroad in China option at this time. In-person instruction for most of the classes for Chinese students at our partner university, Guangxi Normal University (GXNU), has resumed. However, GXNU is still only holding classes online for international students. Once all in-person classes at the university have resumed, we look forward to restarting our joint study abroad program as soon as possible.
China Seminars are still happening at CLI! We recently hosted several great programs for groups traveling to Guilin from other cities in China, and we are looking forward to hosting several more over the coming months. Contact us for more information or to get started designing your seminar.
Teach English in China
If you are currently in mainland China and would like to teach English in China, we stand ready to assist you! Due to the fact that many foreigners left China at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, there is currently a high demand for foreign teachers at schools and training centers all over the country.
We partner with schools in both urban Guilin and the surrounding rural areas and would love to help you choose the right teaching position.
Learn Chinese Online
If you aren’t able to travel to Guilin to study Chinese in-person, we invite you to study Chinese online with CLI! We have been offering online instruction since our founding in 2009 and have continued to refine our online pedagogy since then.
As people search for meaningful ways to use their time while quarantining at home this year, our online enrollment has been growing by leaps and bounds. Studying Chinese online is a great way to keep your language skills fresh and will help prepare you to study Chinese in China once the pandemic is over.
Check Back for Regular Updates
We know many students are eager to return to China to continue their studies. We will continue to update this page regularly to keep you informed about the situation in China and Guilin and we hope to see you again soon! Until then, please stay safe! As always, feel free to reach out to us anytime.