China introduces 72-hour visa-free transit in Beijing as of January 1, 2013

Via Business Traveller, China has just announced that as of January 1, 2013, it will be possible to have a 72-hour transit in Beijing without a visa for residents of 45 countries (including the US). The article does say that tourists will have to register with their visa at a police station within 24 hours, though I’m not sure how strictly that’s enforced.

Now, for what it’s worth I don’t think this will work for those doing mileage runs with direct turns to the United States. Shanghai currently offers a 48 visa-free transit, though you have to be continuing onwards to a third country. After all, if you’re arriving from the US and continuing straight back to the US you’re not really in transit. Though I’d love to be wrong, as that would be great news for mileage runners.

Anyone interpret this differently than me?


  1. hm! maybe i’ll stay a day in beijing on my way to ulan bator next summer, if i can get my award ticket changed. cool deal.

  2. More time to grab the Jade pieces from the same place as last time. Spare some for me, after all I hear Jade brings good luck!

  3. Accordng to discussion on Anet, the police station bit is for visitors staying at private residences. Apparently registering in a hotel also works

  4. That phrase about registering is there even if you have a regular visa, afaik. But it’s not commonly done if you stay at a hotel as they report their guests anyway.

  5. They’re VERY strict on the requirement to register with the police. Most hotels do it for you but if you don’t stay at a hotel or you stay at a hotel that doesn’t register you with the police and you don’t register on your own, you risk being denied entry to China entirely.

  6. From sources in Chinese language (mainly the ministry of public security, which is equivalent of most country’s ministry of interior), the rule will be strictly enforced that you must be in TRANSIT, meaning going to a third country- you must show a confirmed and paid onward ticket on arrival at PEK. In theory a transit to Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan won’t count, because they are technically not a third country though they exercise individual control over immigration. It is possible though if you travel on SEA-PEK-NRT-SEA to get the 72 hours transit visa because you can claim your destination to be Japan rather than China.

  7. Hotels in China will automatically register you after taking a photocopy of your passport. Registration only applies if you stay in a private residence, and even then, enforcement is spotty.

    My experience is that this is a more significant problem for people staying for two weeks or more in the same city on a non-tourist visa. In that situation, you should probably register with the local police station (“paichusuo”) lest immigration give you problems about what you were up to when you leave the country.

  8. @ ben — That’s not a risk I’d take. I’d be more concerned about them verifying your visa on departure in the US. You can’t show them an onward ticket and have a roundtrip ticket at the same time to a third country. You’d likely be denied boarding.

  9. @ Coutureguy — My issue isn’t immigration in China, but actually boarding the flight in the US. They’ll see your roundtrip ticket, so if you have a roundtrip to the US within 72 hours AND a roundtrip to somewhere else they may deny you boarding if the times overlap.

  10. @ Lucky, i’d agree with you from legal standpoint. I’d not of being as Chinese. LOL. (I know the level they are trained)

    Here is what I will do, I will have a valid visa and still book a refundable ticket, upon arrival, I will go with the 72 hours free visa, if I have anything wrong, I will just show them my M-entries visa.

  11. @lucky so could we technically go NYC-PEK(72 hrs)-SIN-NYC on United? and this would be allowed w/out a visa? and during the same trip, from SIN I could see HKG and not worry about being in China b/c no visa is required for HKG?

  12. I believe that even though you go US-China-US, as long as you are in the 72 hour limit, you are still in transit. Whether you go to and from the same country shouldn’t really affect matters. I’d check with the embassy in case, but would be very surprised to not see this apply.

  13. I found this: what does it mean? I know that the Bali arrival VISA is at least a 1 hour hassle…

    Tourists holding third country visas and plane tickets can apply for a transit without visa (TWOV) in the capital city at Beijing Capital International Airport.

  14. @ Matrix — It’s simply saying that you can transit without a visa if you have an onward ticket to a third country (which is the situation in which you get the transit without visa).

  15. @lucky The more I think about it… I may decide to be the guinea pig; its looking very plausible. I always wanted to see beijing… and always never wanted to pay the visa. Anywhere I can find and print out the official notice?

  16. I have done Sydney -Shanghai-Taipei–Shanghai-Sydney

    The Airport people gave no attitude and were very helpful.

    I think too many people have the wrong idea about the Chinese Govt.

  17. I have done Sydney -Shanghai-Taipei–Shanghai-Sydney with 48 hours in Shanghai on both legs.

    The Airport people gave no attitude and were very helpful.

    I think too many people have the wrong idea about the Chinese Govt.

  18. @ Max — And that’s perfectly legitimate since you were in transit. However, some are suggesting doing a direct turn to China (where the country they visit immediately before and after China is the same), and that’s what I’m saying is risky.

  19. I have been transiting through China several times without a visa. Just my blank passport. Recently at PEK airport a group of Americans were told by the Chinese “not to leave the airport while waiting for their next flight” I was next in the queue and asked them politely if I could see the Forbidden city. They looked at my passport and told me: Yes, take a bus there, ask what line goes there. Have a nice stay and welcome to Beijing.
    The difference is that I’m from Poland.

    It’s the politics, as the US and China govts don’t agree on several things. Another example is the border crossing HKG-Shenzhen:
    Americans can’t get a visa there. Others, like the EU, Can, AU, NZ, Russia, etc get it on a reciprocal basis. Usually within 1 hour. Poland gets it for free within 10 minutes 🙂

    PS: One country was removed from the VOA list, it is… Israel.

  20. I have dxb-hkg-pek (10hr connection in hkg) on a 1 way ticket. Then pek-hkg-JFK (22hr connection in hkg) on another 1 way ticket. Are they going to give me issues because I am technically flying from hkg on both flights?

  21. Lucky any thoughts? Now I am getting concerned. What is the worse case scenario? They deport me immediately?

  22. @ Al — I mean technically I don’t think it should be allowed since you’re not in transit (which is defined as traveling from one country to another via a third country in this case). That being said they may not be that detail oriented. Yes, worst case scenario is they don’t let you in the country and you become Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.”

  23. Lucky I am in a big jam so any advice is appreciated. In Dubai right now and china consulate here turned down my visa app because they only process it for Dubai residents. I have the option to call aa since this was an award redemption to change it from pek to some other city but this hurts a lot, I have two one ways booked so that’s $300 per person and my gf is in the same boat. That’s $600 down the drain. If you were in my shoes what would you do? Eat the $600 or give Beijing a shot? Also at which point of the flight process do they review my 72hour no visa eligibility- is it during checkin at the Dubai airport? Thanks.

  24. @ Al — While I wouldn’t usually recommend this, given the bind you’re in, here’s what I’d do. You could book a fully refundable ticket to a third country for travel within 72 hours of arriving in Beijing, like a refundable fare on a US airline to the US. Then you could show that receipt if you’re asked, and you’ll be fine.

    With your current itinerary you could in theory be prevented from traveling either by the check-in agent or upon arrival. There’s a chance your current itinerary will work, though I’d do the above to be on the safe side.

  25. Wow Lucky you are a genius. Seriously, a genius. It just has to be a 3rd country right? Say Japan…

    Is there anything that I should be worried about when I am leaving beijing for my hkg/JFK flight (I.e. during Beijing entry the agent doesn’t note that I am flying to Japan on any of my docs right?). I would then need a story as to why I cancelled my Japan flight etc.

  26. Btw I think you just earned yourself 1 affiliate link sign up from me (next good one available)

  27. @ Al — Any third country should be fine. I wouldn’t worry about anything when leaving. You can always tell them you had an emergency at home and your plans changed.

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