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After opening borders, China presses Singapore for visa-free travel deal

By Xinghui Kok and Chen Lin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China is hammering out details with Singapore on a bilateral visa-free travel arrangement, according to Beijing's embassy, a move that could boost arrivals in the city-state from what was its biggest pre-pandemic tourism market.

There were 3.6 million Chinese visitors to Singapore in 2019, more than any other country, who spent a combined S$4.1 billion ($3.09 billion).

Many Chinese have in recent years been keen to invest, move assets or relocate to Singapore, with some buying into luxury real estate.

Among Singapore's 4 million citizens and permanent residents, three-quarters are of Chinese ethnicity and many speak Mandarin, making it easy for mainland Chinese to navigate the country.

"It is something that citizens of both countries are eagerly awaiting, and is also a shared concern for the leaders of both countries," a spokesperson for China's embassy in Singapore said.

Singapore's foreign ministry did not respond to Reuters request for comment.

Chinese travellers at present are required to apply for visas to visit Singapore.

Singaporeans were allowed 15-day visa-free visits prior to the pandemic. That arrangement has yet to be reinstated, which has led to lengthy queues, some overnight, at the Chinese visa application centre in Singapore.

The Chinese ambassador to Singapore Sun Haiyan wrote in a Facebook post last month: "Hope that the competent authorities of the two sides can achieve positive results as soon as possible."

($1 = 1.3273 Singapore dollars)

(Editing by Martin Petty, Kanupriya Kapoor)