State Department Issues Travel Advisory for China

February 7, 2019

By Immigration Group

This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.

On January 3, 2019, The Department of State warned U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution when traveling to China due to "arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals." The travel advisory states that Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using "exit bans," sometimes "keeping U.S. citizens in China for years."

The travel advisory states that China uses exit bans coercively to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties. In most cases, U.S. citizens become aware of the exit ban only when they attempt to leave China, the advisory states, and there is no way to find out how long the ban may continue. "U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened," the advisory notes.

The advisory warns that U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crimes. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to "state security." Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.

The advisory also notes that China does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to "additional scrutiny and harassment," and China may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services, the advisory states.

Among other things, the advisory recommends that those traveling to China enter on their U.S. passports with a valid Chinese visa, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and have a contingency plan.