Starting from November 1, US-bound tour parties from seven Chinese travel agencies have been allowed to apply for group visas instead of business visas like before. This move signals the opening up of the US travel market to Chinese citizens may take place in the near future.
The seven travel agencies were selected by China's US embassy. They are China International Travel Service, China Travel Service, China Youth Travel Service, Kanghui, Zhongxin, Ocean International Travel Service and Tianjin Classic Holiday Travel Service.
A tour party must have at least six tourists in order to qualify for the group visas. In addition, tourists are required to prove they have visas proving visits to Europe, Australia, or Japan from at least one year ago. If this requirement can't be met, tourists will still have to apply for a business visa to visit the US like before. Applying for a group visa still involves a face-to-face interview like one for a business visa. The visa fee is still US$100.
The advantage of group visa is that a tourist doesn't have to present a letter of invitation and details and proof of the trip such as an itinerary, flight ticket order forms and hotel bookings provided by the travel agency to the embassy. The disadvantage of a group visa is that the visa has to be cancelled at the airport as soon as the trip is over. A business visa enables multiple entries over the specified duration.
Previously, the US embassy and its consulates in China didn't issue group visas to Chinese citizens, fearing illegal immigration.
If the trial run goes smoothly, group visas will be applicable in all major Chinese cities, the US embassy confirmed.
(CRIENGLISH.com December 5, 2006)