China Extends Transit Without Visa To 6 Days

I’ve always found the need to get visas to be one of the bigger barriers to visiting hew countries. I have to really want to visit a place to go through the process of applying for a visa in advance, given that it often means parting ways with my passport for days at a time, not to mention the paperwork and cost involved.

China is one of those countries, though at least they finally offer 10 year multi-entry visas to select passport holders, including Americans. While a visa is always a bit of a barrier for me to visit a place, it’s less of an issue when you can at least use it multiple times over a decade.

The good news is that China has been offering a 72 hour transit without visa program for several years now, which is progressively available at more ports of entry.

Beijing-Airport-Immigration

With China’s 72 hour transit without visa program, passport holders from several dozen countries can transit the following cities for up to 72 hours without a visa:

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Harbin, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, Tianjin, Nanjing, Qingdao and Hangzhou

The key here is that it’s a transit visa, meaning you must have a ticket from one country to another country via China in order to qualify. In other words, planning a a trip from Dallas to Beijing with a return from Beijing to Dallas two days later wouldn’t qualify, since you’re not in transit (you’re returning to where you came from).

Beijing-Airport-Terminal

Meanwhile if you instead flew from Dallas to Beijing with a flight two days later from Beijing to Bangkok, that would qualify (since you’re continuing onwards to a third country).

It seems there’s some further good news when it comes to China’s 72 hour transit without visa program. It looks like China is in the process of adopting a 144 hour (six day) transit without visa program in select cities. This will be valid in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanjing.

Last week the deputy mayor of Shanghai declared that the new 144 hour transit without visa would soon take effect, though no exact date has been given. Via Travel China Guide:

Compared with 72-hour free transit policy, the new program features more favorable highlights.

  • First, the allowed stay duration is extended to 144 hours while the requirements remain the same as before. This allows passengers to arrange their travel plans more flexible and save a lot of troubles. For regular flyers and businessmen, this is really a great gift.
  • Second, the policy covers Hangzhou and Nanjing as well. In other words, visitors can enter and leave from any of the three cities.
  • Third, the transit port is not only limited to airport in Shanghai. It means that cruise ship and train passengers can also enjoy this policy.

Bottom line

This is exciting news, and I expect other cities will probably adopt a similar policy soon. Shanghai was one of the first cities to offer the 72 hour transit without visa, so they’re very much a leader when it comes to this policy. Given the amount of additional tourism this policy has generated, I imagine other cities will follow as well.

While I personally have a 10 year Chinese visa at this point since it’s valid for multiple entries, I think this policy change will encourage a lot more people to transit China. Three days was always a bit tight, especially since you wanted to leave a bit of a buffer in the event of flight delays or cancellations (trust me, you don’t want to overstay the 72 hours).

Hopefully this new policy goes into effect soon.

Does a six day transit without visa make you more likely to visit China?

Comments

  1. What perfect work is a flight to and from hongkong and then a flight from hongkong to bejing (or any other city with the transit visa rule) and a flight back to Macau and from there its just a short ferry ride straight to the airport.

  2. Good to know — opens up more transit options which is always a good thing. With that said I am up for a new passport this year and I think one of the first things I am going to do is send out a Chinese 10-year visa request. Also, not sure how a train passenger takes advantage of this. They traveling from HK to North Korea or what? It doesn’t seem like a border agent in Shenzen would be able to give out a Shanghai transit visa.

  3. “Trust me, you don’t want to overstay the 72 hours”

    @ Lucky – do you know what happens if there is a delay on cancellation and you are forced to overstay?

  4. Great news! I used the 72 hr visa free rule to visit Shanghai last year but I would have loved a bit more time. Six days would have been much better.

  5. Can you change cities under the 72 hour rule? For example, is USA-PEK, PEK-PVG and PVG-SIN a legal sequence of flights in 72 hours?

  6. You can get a second passport, which would free you up to use your original one for travel while the visa was being processed. Of course, you also have an EU passport, so you wouldn’t exactly be trapped in the U.S. anyway.

  7. Allows for more planning options for long-haul travel, e.g. to Australia. I think more cities will want to go to the six day scheme as well. When the 72 hour visa started it was only in Shanghai and Beijing; other cities complained loudly that they were being cut out of the tourist traffic and after some foot dragging the Communist bureaucrats relented. Gotta keep the party hacks and masses happy.

  8. Echoing Christian’s point, it is possible to apply for an extra U.S. Passport…even 2 (as is the case for many reporters assigned to The White House). You just need to cite the rule from the State Department rules (use Google) when writing your cover letter for the application. I did this successfully earlier this year when I needed to be in Brussels but had to go to Tajikistan a week later and that Tajik Embassy in Washington wanted awhile to process my visa request. The only downside is the extra passports only have a two year lifespan.

  9. Just used the 72 hr visa policy in Shanghai, was def a bit tight since it is a beautiful city. Now only if they lift their ban on Google products along with other social media sites it would be perfect. Trust me no access to gmail for 72 hrs or google maps was huge disadvantage.

  10. @higan of course you can leave the airport, can’t imagine spending 6 days in the airport transit area ;D
    @ftg in theory one can’t leave the city, but I was wondering how this could be enforced in practice??

  11. @flyingart in practice it can be enforced if you happen to get into some sort of trouble, car accident, or any other incident, or simply get stopped by the cops. Don’t forget also that China is a communist country, and it’s perfectly ok for the police to stop you for no reason and ask you for your documents, which you must carry at all times, and if they catch you you have a legal system that is questionable at best, so it’s all about how much risk you’re willing to take, and is it worth the trouble if you get caught. I personally would just follow the requirements while there.

  12. Every time you check into a hotel you are registered with the police so they will know if you stay at a hotel outside where you’re allowed to go.

  13. Re: FreeTravelGuy Yes, China isn’t a democracy and the legal system isn’t crash hot, but the scenario of police randomly stopping tourists for their papers is very unlikely. I’ve lived in China for four years and been to several cities and even a small town or two and can state that I’ve never been randomly asked for my papers by the police. By far the most likely way to be caught out of the transit visa zone would be if you were involved in an incident where the police would be called in in most countries (e.g. car accident, bar fight, et cetera). You could also be caught out when you get your ID checked when trying to board a train or domestic flight to somewhere outside of the transit zone, although that depends on if the checker looks for the visa or just bothers with the info page of the passport.

    Or, of course, as laurel points out, you could just kindly let the police know where to pick you up at by trying to stay at a hotel outside of the transit zone. I personally would also just follow the rules too, but that said, the chances of getting caught aren’t all that high if you don’t do anything stupid.

  14. @John, I don’t know what happens with an overstay of a temporary transit visa, but if you overstay any other Chinese visa you will most certainly be detained and fined. They are not lenient on this.

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