Exit and Entry Administration centers nationwide were busy on Monday, the first working day after the country resumed issuing passports and travel permits for Chinese residents on the mainland.
The centers resumed full operations after the issuing of travel documents for tourism and nonemergency purposes was stopped on July 30, 2021, due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, there was strong demand for passports and other services from mainland residents as well as foreigners seeking residence permits and visas, immigration officials said, adding that demand for services is expected to continue to rise.
Even though all service counters at the Beijing Exit and Entry Administration Service Center were open on Monday, applicants for travel documents still had to wait for short periods.
Liu Jing, an officer of the Exit and Entry Administration Bureau of Beijing Municipal Public Security, said the number of people visiting the center in the morning was similar to pre-COVID levels.
"As Exit and Entry Administration service centers around the country are dealing with a surge in applications, I strongly recommend people to make an appointment online first to avoid long waiting times," Liu said.
Management of COVID-19 was downgraded from Class A to Class B on Sunday. The next day, authorities resumed issuing passports for Chinese mainland residents for tourism purposes abroad as well as processing endorsements for Chinese mainland residents to visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
A Beijing resident surnamed Gong said her passport expired in 2022 and she urgently needed to renew it.
"I loved traveling around the world before the pandemic, and now I can continue doing that," said the 66-year-old while flipping through the pages of her old passport, which contains immigration stamps from many countries.
It took Gong and her husband, who also renewed his passport, about an hour to complete the renewal process. The couple decided to have their passports renewed as quickly as possible, after hearing a week ago that passport renewal and other services would resume on Monday.
"I want to visit Europe and Africa this year. I will first consider countries that don't impose travel restrictions for people who travel from China," Gong said.
Chen Shubin made an online appointment to apply for a travel document to visit Hong Kong after the service was made available at the Beijing center. "I planned to travel to Hong Kong before, but I didn't make it because of the travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. Now I can finally make the trip," Chen said.
Ji Xiaowen, an officer of the Exit and Entry Administration Bureau of Beijing, said services for foreign nationals at the center have returned to normal. The services deal with foreign nationals' applications for the extension, renewal and reissuing of ordinary visas, short-term stay permits and residence permits.
"After the number of inbound flights starts to increase and more foreigners come to China, we expect to see a gradual increase in applications from foreign nationals," Ji said.
Derek Holste, 24, from the United States successfully submitted an application for a residence permit on Monday.
"Now it's more convenient for students from all over the world to study in China, which is a great opportunity," said the PhD student at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing.
In response to the large number of visa applications in Shanghai, operations have been optimized, said Shen Qiang, a director with the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau of Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau.
All 150 reception counters across the city have been opened to offer services, Shen said.
Li Peixuan in Beijing and Wang Ying in Shanghai contributed to this story.
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