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China's new visa measures a cause for concern
Publication Date : 16-08-2013
China is going to implement new visa measures starting from 2014, that includes requiring visa applicants to provide fingerprints scans and photographs before they can enter the country. Although China is not the first country to implement such measures, the announcement has raised many concerns in Malaysia, especially among those with Chinese ancestry.
The main difference between the old and new visa application procedure, is that now applicants have to provide fingerprint scans. Malaysian media recently reported that besides going to the Chinese embassy's visa application service centre in Kuala Lumpur, travel agencies have also been authorised to collect fingerprint scans.
This would make applying for a visa a lot more convenient for those living outside Kuala Lumpur.
However, many are still confused over the "ordinary visa categories and requirements". For instance, is it now a requirement for those applying for the Q-visa to show a letter of invitation written by relatives in China?
The Q-visa is for relatives of Chinese nationals and permanent residents who wish to enter the country for short visits or to attend family reunions.
I believe that many Malaysians are concerned over this matter, as they have relatives in China who they want to visit regularly.
Showing a letter as proof of invitation used to be a requirement for visa application in the past, but this was later abolished. Would not re-implementing this measure be a step backwards for China?
Besides, a letter is not enough to prove the relationship between the applicants and those they claim to be relatives in China. It would be almost impossible for the Chinese authorities to investigate one by one to prove the relationship between the letter writer and recipient!
Passports and visas are things of the modern world. Although countries have long set their checkpoints for the sake of national security and interest, passports and visas became essential travel documents after World War I. One little known fact is that before WWI, the world was a "global village" where most countries did not require travel documents for people to cross between borders.
The United Kingdom was the first country to implement the Nationality and Status of Aliens Act in 1914, after which many other countries followed suit, making travel documents such as the passport an essential document for travelling between countries. Entry visas were later implemented.
Today, many countries have inked bilateral and multilateral understandings, some in agreement to make travelling between these countries as simple as possible for their respective citizens.
For example, the Schengen Agreement which was signed by 7 European Union member countries in 1985 and made effective in July 1995, allows travellers who hold valid visas issued by any of the signatory countries, to travel freely between the countries party to the agreement. As of 1 July 2012, the number of countries that have signed the agreement has increased to 26.
In recent years, the Chinese government has been actively promoting bilateral agreements for visa-free travel with some countries it has friendly ties with. Not only
have China and Malaysia enjoyed good a bilateral relationship, the citizens of the two countries have close ties too.
This this in mind, it is hoped that both countries would work towards further improving its friendship, instead of adding more red tape which would cause unnecessary inconvenience and obstacles on interaction with each other.
*translated by Soong Phui Jee