New visa law offers lifeline to foreigners

Updated: 2013-07-17 10:39

By Shi Yingying in Shanghai (China Daily)

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China's new Exit and Entry Administration Law is proving useful for foreign sailors in emergency situations.

In early July, Garcia Cristopher Jusayan, a Filipino sailor on the Mariner of the Seas cruise ship, was touring Shanghai while his ship was docked in port.

Jusayan fell ill on July 9, the day the ship was scheduled to leave for South Korea. Stuck in the hospital without an extended visa, he was in a quandary.

Before the new Exit and Entry Law took effect on July 1, he would have had to go through an arduous procedure to stay in Shanghai. But because of the new law, which grants foreigners a temporary visa for up to 15 days in unexpected events, Jusayan got a break.

"He would have had to go through Shanghai's entry and exit administration bureau in a situation like this before the new law, and the original procedures were much longer and more complicated," said Lu Jun at Shanghai's Pujiang Inspection Station, which issued the entry visa. "Now we can skip that step and issue him the permit directly."

Lu added that emergency situations can include needing immediate hospital treatment.

"But if the sailor is not cured within 15 days, he has to apply to the entry and exit administration bureau to extend the permit," Lu added.

Jusayan is recovering after receiving treatment at Pu'nan Hospital. He isn't the first foreign sailor to benefit from the new law.

Another Filipino sailor, Antonio De Torres Espineli, experienced severe abdominal pain and arrhythmia while on the German cargo ship Seoul Express, which was heading to Shanghai's Yangshan Port. Espineli was diagnosed with gastritis and nephritis and a helicopter was sent from Donghai No 1 Air Rescue Service to bring him to a hospital on the day the law took effect.

"We sent a helicopter at 11:32 am to pick up the patient from Seoul Express," said Jin Zhirong, a spokesman for the rescue service. "It arrived in 50 minutes and transferred him to Shanghai East Hospital."

Jin said Waigaoqiao Inspection Station cooperated with his team and granted Espineli a 15-day entry permit. The sailor recovered and left Shanghai by air on July 3, said Zhang Xingxing, a spokesman for Waigaoqiao Inspection Station.

Under the new law, foreigners can apply for a 24-hour visa-free stay when passing through China to another destination by air, train or cruise ship.

"We give a one-day entry permit if they can prove how they got to Shanghai and how they plan to leave the country - a photocopy of a boat ticket or airline ticket, for example," said Lu at Pujiang Inspectation Station.

This year, Beijing and Shanghai have adopted laws allowing people from 45 countries who arrive at their airports to stay in the country for 72 hours without a visa. That has not applied to ship passengers.

Hou Liping, chief engineer and deputy managing director of COSCO Container Lines, said the new law reflected a new humane spirit and is in line with international conventions.

"Several crew members who work for our company encountered emergency situations last year. Once near Midway Islands, the US coast guard immediately picked our sick man at sea, sending a helicopter to carry him for emergency treatment in Hawaii and later returning him after treatment," Hou said.

An industry insider who spoke on condition of anonymity added, "This policy shows progress in Shanghai's development toward becoming an international shipping hub. The policy will not only give confidence to the industry, but also encourage investors."

Shanghai's shipping industry has been hit hard by the bearish global economy. Last year, Shanghai Port accommodated 40,200 foreign ships, a drop of almost 3 percent from 2011, according to Shanghai's office for port services.

Wang Ying contributed to this story.