AGS Worldwide Movers

Immigration China: Visa-free travel for 12 new countries simplifies look-see trips

The People’s Republic of China has added a host of new European countries to its visa exemption policy.

Posted in: Asia
Published Date: 23 May 2024

Family Adjustment to Chinese Culture During Look-see Trips

Until 31 December 2025, passport holders of Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxemburg, and Switzerland can visit China for up to 15 days without a visa – making preliminary visits more convenient.

The latest countries on China’s visa exemption list join others which have enjoyed temporary visa-free access since December 2023. These countries were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.

For employers this means that sending potential assignees on ‘look and see’ trips to China has become a lot easier. International relocation provides opportunities but can also come with challenges, and allowing potential workers to scout the destination country first before moving can save time and resources for both employers and employees.


The purpose of the ‘look and see’ trip

“[This kind of visit involves exploring] the city [where you’ll be moving to] as if you were going to be a local rather than a tourist,” explained the country manager for AGS China, Thomas Coupat.

Many expats who relocate to China for work come from Europe and the United States, which are culturally different from many Asian countries. “People have preconceived ideas about a place like China or India. If someone offered me a job in, for example, North Africa, I wouldn’t really know what [moving there would] entail.”

The look-see trip can help potential assignees assess whether they can see themselves living in the new destination country. But it’s also crucial for their families. Coupat explained that when relocation assignments do not work out, it is often because the employee’s family is unable to adjust to the new environment. “The true purpose of the look-see trip is to reassure the spouse and family [that their new home will be alright],” he said.

During the tour, the employee and their family might look at schools, grocery stores, gyms, housing, and other facets of everyday life in their potential new home country. If someone is keen on golf or tennis or has special medical needs, the priority will be to see whether the employee can satisfy these needs in China or not. “It’s like a taste of [what living there would be like],” explained Coupat.


Why a look-see trip is worth it for employers

Business Man on Look-see Trip in Hong KongLook-see trips have become less commonplace in the relocation industry compared to a decade ago. In a tough economic climate, employers see it as an unnecessary expense because there is no guarantee that the potential employee will take the job. But Coupat argues it is worth it in the end: “It is infinitely less expensive than the roughly 3 million US dollars you’d spend on a three-year contract, but the assignee ends up leaving early because they can’t settle in the location.”

These look-see trips can have a significant impact on the choices would-be expats make. Coupat said that he has seen people turn down jobs after the look-see trip, but he has also encountered those who take the job after their trip even though they were initially hesitant. “To ensure you have the right person, I think it’s a worthwhile investment,” explained Coupat.


More on the visa exemption policy trial

Under the visa exemption policy, travellers can visit China for business, tourism, to visit relatives and friends, and/or for transit. The policy aims to increase tourism and ease travel into the country while also making it more convenient to facilitate business, work, and trade for foreign nationals.

Coupat mentioned that one of the reasons for the decreasing popularity of look-see trips is the hassle of obtaining a visa for such a short trip, as they often only last three to five days.

For Global Mobility and HR professionals, the visa-free arrangement makes these trips simpler. It also provides the perfect opportunity for employers to ensure they have the right candidate by organising an orientation trip for their potential assignees.

Do you have employees who need help relocating to China? Discuss their immigration and moving requirements with us!