China’s rapid dismantling of COVID-19 restrictions caught some embassies and consulates in the country off guard and understaffed, leading to complications in issuing visas and delaying the resumption of international business activity.

Joerg Wuttke, head of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said some Chinese executives are waiting as long as six to eight weeks to get business visas to travel to Europe. Prior to the pandemic, typical applications could be completed sometimes in a matter of days.

Schengen-area countries are most affected, in particular Germany — which counts China as a key trading partner. At least two leading foreign business groups in China have called for a return to systems and processes used before the pandemic. Chinese tourists wishing to travel to Europe have also faced visa delays, forcing some to cancel or rearrange plans.