China visa hurdles

THE Australia Chinese Business Council has moved to quell what it is says are growing frustrations over strict visa requirements Chinese people are facing travelling to Australia.

In addition, some Western Australian companies are saying limited access visas are hampering their Chinese business plans.

The issues are particularly concerning as business with China – Western Australia’s second largest trading partner – continues to grow.

According to unpublished ABS data, total trade between WA and China last financial year was valued at $4.82 billion second only to Japan, WA’s long-standing top trading partner.

China has moved from being WA’s number four trader to second in the past three years.

ACBC president Des Williams says that, due to Australian immigration concern about the validity of some Chinese business visa applications, a number of businesses wanting to visit Australia have been delayed and, ultimately, refused.

Dr Williams says while Australia’s response is not entirely unfounded, the ACBC has written to Australian immigration officials in China with an offer to provide feedback detailing the visit and outcomes of Chinese business visits.

Dr Williams told WA Business News a similar issue had been resolved in the late 1990s after it was agreed that both Chinese and Australian business interests would be more comprehensive in their applications.

“But now, there does seem to be a need for further review,” he said.

However, the issue could also be resolved if Chinese business people, as well as supporting Australian businesses, made their applications more comprehensive, he said.

WA Business News contacted a number of businesses, however none spoken to talked of difficulty in trying to bring Chinese business interests to Australia.

But some local businesses did admit they had experienced difficulty with multiple entry business visas for China.

Sources say that while multiple entry visas can be bought for six months or a year, they are really only valid for two return trips to China.

Dr Williams said this appeared to be a minor form of retaliation, which had caused headaches for businesses.

A spokesperson from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Perth said this was not the case and WA business was being encouraged to do business in China

Many businesses indicated that obtaining a visa for most of WA’s top trading partners was a relatively straight-forward process.

A business visa is not even required for Japan – a tourist visa will suffice. In most cases such visas are easy to obtain and last up to 90 days.

A business visa is required to enter the US, which involves applying and attending an interview. But a multiple entry visa can be obtained for up to five years without requiring renewal.

Another operator, Burswood Casino, said it recognised there was a problem with Chinese nationals obtaining holiday visas to enter Australia.

A spokeswoman said that, as a result, Burswood staff were often required to facilitate their Chinese clientele’s entry to Australia.

Iron ore company Fortescue Metals Group acknowledged a difficulty in Chinese travel.

However FMG head of marketing Phillip Kirchlechner said he did not think the current situtation was anything out of the ordinary.

Mr Kirchlechner, who lived in China for 16 years before moving to Perth to work for Rio Tinto, added that the situation had generally improved compared with a number of years ago.

“China is a lot more open than it used to be; a lot freer than some other countries that call themselves capitalist,” he said.

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