China may expand visa-free policy for 2008

Wednesday, January 24, 2007; 11:04 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - China may expand its current limited visa-free policy for foreign visitors next year when Beijing hosts the Olympic Games, a senior immigration official said on Thursday, to deal with an expected influx of tourists. "We will positively consider anything that is beneficial for the Olympics," Li Changyou, deputy director of the Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security, told a news conference. He did not elaborate.

China currently offers visa-free entry to nationals of just three countries -- Singapore, Brunei and Japan -- and then only for 15-day visits.

Americans, Canadians, South Koreans, Australians and people from several European countries can stay for 48-hours with no visa if they enter via Shanghai.

Apart from a few other minor exceptions, almost everyone else needs to apply for a visa before coming to China.

Li said that China had already loosened some requirements, including the granting of one-year work permits to people coming to work on the Games in the run up to 2008.

"We will respect Olympic conventions and the Olympics' charter and look further at related work measures, so we can guarantee a successful Games," Li said. "We will continue to work hard on this front."

(Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng)

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