China's parliament approved new draft national security laws that could apply to Hong Kong, having a big impact not only on its political and economic landscape, but also what it's like to travel there.

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View of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon skyline, skyscrapers from Victoria Peak, Victoria Peak. ©Megan Eaves/Lonely Planet

What has changed for US travellers? 

The draft laws have been approved, and legislation could be enacted in the next few months, reports the Guardian. US President Donald Trump announced that due to the national security law, the United States could dissolve the "special status" the country has long granted to Hong Kong, which has operated semi-autonomously from China since 1997. Trump said in a statement: "We will be revising the state department's travel advisory for Hong Kong to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus."

What is likely to happen next?

No specific measures have been outlined at this time. In terms of travel, the relationship between the US and Hong Kong remains unchanged for now, but the dissolution of the "special status" could mean more rules for travelers in the future. 

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Crowded street, Kowloon, Hong Kong. ©Joan Gamell/500px

How could this impact travel from the US to Hong Kong in the future?

Currently when someone from the US travels to Hong Kong, all that's required is a passport that will be valid for a month beyond the duration of your stay, adequate funds for your journey, and evidence you will eventually return home or travel elsewhere. Visas are only required for those working or studying in Hong Kong. If the US removes Hong Kong’s special status, travelers hoping to visit the “vertical city” may have to follow the same entry requirements for mainland China, which includes a passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay, as well as an entry visa and exit visa. Visitors are required to register with either hotel staff or the local police station on arrival and to carry their passports, Chinese visas, or residence permits at all times.

As of 20 February, US citizens have been advised to avoid non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For up-to-date information on travel to Hong Kong, check with the US Department of State’s advice here.

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