The process for obtaining a European travel visa for the residents of Yunnan just became much easier. The opening of Italian and French-run service centers in Kunming's Beichen and Guandu areas mean applicants no longer need to book a trip to Sichuan or Chongqing to obtain the necessary documents for a visit to continental Europe.
The Italian Visa Application Center (昆明意大利签证申请中心) actually opened in April for a month-long trial period, but is now fully staffed and conducting regular services. Located just south of the Beichen Station stop on Metro Line 2, the office is open Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm, and accepts applications each day until 4pm.
Chinese citizens interested in traveling to Italy and beyond must submit a raft of documents when applying. These include four passport-sized photos, a copy of their hukou, a valid passport, resident identity card, a certificate stating current marital status, medical history, proof of employment, retirement or student status, birth certificate and a current summary of assets, among others. The application fee is a non-refundable 60 Euros (444 yuan).
The opening of the visa center is part of a concerted effort by the Italian embassy in China to reach out to more people. According to Italian Consul General Sergio Maffettone, whom GoKunming interviewed in March, the office will help both countries:
In Chongqing, the opening of the Italian Visa Center, combined with the new direct flight link to Rome operated by Hainan Airlines, has lead to a 238 percent increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Italy. In the future, we hope direct flight routes between Kunming and Italy will also be made available, and we are confident that this new visa center [in Kunming] will boost tourism on both sides...We are also cooperating with the Yunnan government to invite Italian National TV to come to Yunnan. Already, the number of Italian tourists visiting Yunnan has tripled in the past three years, thanks to a joint effort of Italian and local authorities in promoting an area unknown to most in Italy until a few years ago.
Indeed, the opening of the center may provide a boost to more than just Italy. Once granted a visa to visit Italy, Chinese citizens are also allowed to visit all other countries making up the Schengen Area. The collection of 26 member states have adopted a common visa policy, making transnational trips far easier than in the past. Although recent attacks in France and Belgium have led to some tighter border restrictions, the vast majority of involved countries continue to recognize visas issued by other member states.
The Italian-run visa center is joined by a new French version as well. Offering identical services from an office in south Kunming's Guandu District, the French Visa Service Center (昆明法国签证中心) officially opened on May 10. Together, the two agencies eliminate the need for people from Yunnan to travel to other provinces to submit an in-person application to European consulates or embassies.
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