China and Canada started issuing reciprocal visas on March 9, with increased exchanges becoming essential to both countries.
Multiple-entry visas for business, travel or family visits are being granted, with the longest validity being 10 years, both governments said on March 8.
The development comes after China and the United States agreed on a multiple-entry visa policy in November.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on March 10 that the latest move will further promote exchanges and cooperation, push forward strategic cooperation and benefit people in both countries.
Gao Ping, consul general at the Chinese embassy in Canada, said China issued 230,000 visas to Canadians last year, with 80 percent of them traveling to China for business, tourism or family visits, meaning that the majority of Canadian visitors will benefit from the policy change.
The Canadian government website quoted Perrin Beatty, Canadian Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer, as saying: “The future of countless Canadian businesses is in China. These new visa arrangements will make it easier for them to meet more frequently with their clients, distributors and suppliers, and to build the long-term relationships they need to compete.”
According to Chinese government statistics, bilateral trade reached $55.2 billion last year and China is Canada’s No 2 trade partner.
Jia Xiudong, a senior international affairs researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said, “The new policy reflects that Canada wants to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China, as the country has shown great potential in economy, trade, investment and tourism development.”
The move will save frequent travelers the trouble of visiting embassies, which is time-consuming and incurs extra cost, he said.
With more than 100 million overseas trips made by Chinese tourists last year, China has become a hot source of travelers, and countries including the US and Britain have smoothed visa application measures to attract Chinese.
Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy’s International Tourism Development Institute, said, “Visa application has always had an important influence on inbound and outbound travel.”
Since Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea launched visa-free trips for Chinese citizens in 2008, about 2.8 million Chinese have traveled there annually in recent years, accounting for nearly half of all the country’s tourists to the ROK, Jiang said.
Dai Yu, marketing director at online travel agency Ctrip’s Tourism Department, said, “We saw growth of more than 50 percent in the number of Chinese tourists to Canada last year.”