As we mentioned last month, the US State Department updated its travel advisory system last year, so now every country always has a rating from Level 1 to Level 4. Level 1 means that you can travel to the country using the standard precautions that you would always use when traveling. Level 2 means that you should exercise increased caution, but it is still considered generally safe to travel. Level 4 means that you should not travel to that country or territory unless absolutely necessary.
Earlier this month, the State Department raised China’s travel advisory level from Level 1 to Level 2. Along with the change, the State Department issued a specific advisory, stating its reasons for making the change. While China is still generally considered safe to visit for most travelers, the State Department noted that some local laws are being arbitrarily enforced upon Americans.
While this is obviously a problem and worthy of concern, the fact that the State Department has only raised the warning to Level 2 indicates that this problem is not a rampant one, but rather something that American travelers need to be mindful of.
The other — and more serious — half of the advisory noted that some US travelers who hold dual citizenship with China have been prevented from leaving China. They are able to enter the country without trouble, but when they try to return to America, they are barred from doing so, sometimes for weeks or even years.
This is obviously a major concern for anyone who holds dual Chinese-American citizenship. If this describes you, you should absolutely think twice before visiting China. As it currently stands, the relationship between the United States and China is strained, and dual citizens who return to China could potentially be used as bargaining chips. No one wants that.
That said, again, for Americans who do not also hold citizenship in China, the current warning level should be carefully considered but not seen as a reason to absolutely not visit China. These warnings are sometimes more about politics than they are about actual travel concerns. It’s important to bear in mind other countries that currently have a Level 2 warning attached to them by the US State Department, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, parts of Mexico, and the Netherlands.
If you have travel to China coming up, we recommend checking the travel advisory website for the latest information about the State Department’s travel advisories. On the travel advisory website, you can sign up for country-specific updates and read the full text of any currently issued warnings.
You should also feel free to give our office a call to discuss any potential travel concerns or to get help obtaining China visas. We are always available to answer questions and help you travel as safely and smoothly as possible.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.