A friend of mine is currently in Wuhan, China, as the city is placed under quarantine.

He is a European citizen and had thus made a tourist visa to visit the family of his wife for the Lunar new year, but got caught in the middle of the quarantine and lockdown of the city as he is bound to leave soon. He has an extended visa and all is fine for him, but this situation got me thinking:

Say somebody is travelling to a city like Wuhan, and they should leave tomorrow to go back home and their visa is about to expire and the city unexpectedly is locked down under quarantine.

  1. What would this somebody situation be ?
  2. Would they be illegally in the country ?
  3. Is there some special law that covers these situations or is it an international agreement ?

Just to clarify, I am asking this question just out of pure curiosity, I am not currently in this situation.

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    Whether someone's presence in a country is lawful is generally a matter for that country's laws. Preventing someone from leaving and then subjecting them to negative consequences for not having left is certainly unjust, but there are no international agreements affecting a person's permission to remain in a foreign country's territory unless the person is a refugee or is stateless. If there is a special law for this circumstance it will be found in Chinese law, so I am not able to answer.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 15:13
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    More common, but in principle the same situation, is when you are prevented from travelling due to natural events like floods or volcanic disruptions. I've never heard of such cases being pursued if you are forced to overstay a visa when there is absolutely no way for you to leave the country. I would even expect Chinese authorities to be pragmatic in this situation and not impose any penalties for such overstays. Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 16:11
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo In the age of automated everything, I'm pretty sure there are at least some countries where, in this situation, if you had not alerted the proper authorities and addressed the problem, you would be automatically flagged as an "overstayer", jeopardising future travel or making it a lot more complex. As advised in the answer below, one should definitely make sure they take whatever steps are required so that their status takes the situation into account.
    – jcaron
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 17:38
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    @jcaron Not sure about that and depending on where you are stranded and unable to travel, there may very well not be any proper authorities to address. Even in this case, I would not take if for granted that the immigration authorities (if there are any) in Wuhan has capacities to handle all foreigners there with a similar problem. I don't see why one can't reasonably assume that this can be solved at the border when exiting, if you present proof (hotel bookings, traing/flight tickets or similar) that you were actually stranded in Wuhan. Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 17:49
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    Your friend should at very least inform the relevant embassy (or any other European consular authority) of their presence in the quarantined territory. This will help home authorities to keep monitoring the situation, under some extraordinary situations to provide evacuation, and the embassy will probably advice the European citizen about visa extension. Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 8:31

2 Answers 2


Medical emergencies (which this definitely is since they have quarantined the city) are a valid reason for a visa extension. Make sure, however, that you notify the relevant authorities ASAP.

Do not think that you can just stay until the quarantine is lifted and then leave as usual without proper extensions etc.

Immediately contact the relevant authorities and figure out what the procedures are in this special case. As long as you this in the proper way you should not have any problems.

  • 43
    Why do people write VISA in all capitals? Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 18:50
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    In addition, a traveller finding themselves quarantined in a foreign country should contact their nearest consulate for advice and support
    – CSM
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 19:11
  • 44
    @MichaelHarvey Because they see the credit card company do it and think they have to as well, even though it means something different. Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 19:53
  • 15
    @DJClayworth for me it iPad auto spell Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 0:35
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    @MichaelHarvey Some people write on phones, the phone's autocorrect will choose VISA over visa because people talk about VISA cards more often than they do about actual visas. Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 14:09

This is a case of force majeure, which the Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People's Republic of China uses in 2 cases. Unfortunately not for this situation:

  • punctual exit impossible due to force majeure

but Article 55 (unforeseen arrival in China) states that you must

immediately report to the nearest exit/entry border inspection authority or local public security organ, and accept supervision and administration.

Since all visitors are required to register with the public security bureau (PSB) anyway:

From FAQ China: Foreign Nationals Must Register Their Residence with Local Police within 24 Hours:
Foreign nationals in China must register their temporary residence with the public security bureau (PSB). Further, registration is a prerequisite to filing with the PSB Exit-Entry Division an application for a new visa, stay certificate, or residence permit.

I assume that you are already registered (Hotels do this for you, see Q3 ; otherwise Q4).

Q6: What evidence of registration will be provided to you when you register?

This states that you should have a Registration Form of Temporary Residence


Q7: If your application to the PSB for a new visa, stay certificate, or residence permit is pending, can you use the acceptance receipt to register?

If you’ve applied to the public security bureau’s exit-entry division for a new visa, or residence permit, you should (at least in theory) be able to use the acceptance receipt for your pending application to register your temporary residence.

Since it is now clear that you cannot leave, you should now apply for a new visa or stay certificate for the duration of the force majeure.

(Comment from @MattDouhan: The PSB, where you register, is actually the closest Police Station - so they should be able to help.)

Since it should be clear that you cannot leave, this will probably be noted within the bureaucratic system and may be of help when leaving.

Since by re-registering with the PSB, you are following existing regulations during the force majeure, there is nothing more that you can do. To do nothing at all would be a mistake.

Informing your Embassy or nearest Consulate of your present situation is strongly advised.

This should include photos of

  • Passport main page
  • pages with visa and entry stamp
  • all Registration Form of Temporary Residence that you may have

so that a Consulate official will have all relevant information that may possibly be needed.


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    And the PSB where you register is actually closest Police Station so they should be able to help Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 0:38

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