Going To Beijing? Do You Need A Chinese Visa?

In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about the partners we work with. Thanks for your support!

Last night we received official word from American that they will be honoring the $450 business class fares which they published between Washington and Beijing on Tuesday night.

Presumably that means hundreds of us are headed to Beijing. And presumably that means hundreds of us need visas for China.


The great news is that as of recently China issues 10 year multi-entry visas, which takes the sting out of the application process a bit, in my opinion.


Taking advantage of China’s 72-hour “Transit Without Visa”

China does technically offer a 72-hour transit without visa, though chances are this probably isn’t useful to you if you booked this fare.

To qualify for a 72-hour transit without visa, you must be traveling on a passport from one of the following countries:

Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

You must be transiting one of the following airports (meaning you’re arriving and departing from the same airport):

Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, Hongqiao Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, Chengdu Shuangliu Airport and Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport,Shenyang Taoxian Internatioanl Airport, Dalian International Airport, andXian Xianyang International Airport.

You must actually be in transit, meaning you must be connecting to a third country. This means that if you’re flying from Washington to Beijing and then 48 hours later back to Washington, that’s not transit, since you’re not continuing to a third country.

Ultimately you can be on an itinerary that eventually gets you back to the country of origin, it just can’t be the next airport you fly to. It also doesn’t have to be a logical connection, but rather just to a third country.  So if you’re taking a side trip to Hong Kong or Singapore, that should be fine.

You can find the full requirements for a 72 hour transit without visa on travelchinaguide.com. And I wrote about my experience transiting Beijing with a 72-hour visa last year.

Can the 72-hour transit without visa be tricked?

A lot of people have asked me if there’s a sneaky way to use the 72-hour transit without visa to circumvent visa requirements.

Let me give a specific example. Say you’re scheduled to be in Beijing for 48 hours, landing on April 1 and departing on April 3. Could you get to Beijing on April 1, and then have a refundable ticket booked from Beijing to Hong Kong on April 3 to get through immigration, and then cancel it and get on your American flight to the US?

In theory this might work, but it’s really risky. Keep in mind that on your immigration form you have to list your departing flight, and immigration may also ask for your boarding pass. So while there’s a chance you might get away with using the above strategy, I wouldn’t count on it working.


If you’re not in transit, you will need to arrange a visa in advance

US Citizens can now apply for a 10-year, multi-entry visa for China, which does take some of the sting out of the process.

As a reminder, Allied Passport and Visa is offering a $5 discount to readers of One Mile at a Time — simply write a note on your Allied Order Form that One Mile at a Time referred you and you’ll receive a $5 discount.


Allied also has a helpful rundown on the visa requirements for tourists, as follows:


Applications must be type written. Hand written applications will not be accepted by the embassy.

  • One completed China visa application (save to your desktop before typing)
  • One passport type photo
  • Actual passport valid six months beyond trip completion and side by side blank visa pages
  • One flight itinerary with passenger name listed on reservation (it doesn’t have to be a purchased itinerary — a held itinerary works as well)
  • Non-USA passport holders must provide your US Visa and I-94 or original green card
  • One Allied Passport & Visa order form (save to your desktop before typing)
  • Parents traveling with minors will need to supply a copy of their child’s birth certificate

The catch is that Allied is based in Washington DC, and China divides the US into several different jurisdictions:


If you live in one of the lime green states, Allied can process your visa application at their standard rates, and you’re eligible to upgrade to two-day processing. If you live in one of the other states, there is an additional $10 fee, since it’s technically outside of DC’s jurisdiction.

Bottom line

The process of getting visas can be annoying, though at least in the case of China, they’re valid for 10 years and for multiple entries. So it’s a painful process you only have to complete once. With visas I always recommend applying sooner rather than later, just to be on the safe side.

Who has received a Chinese visa recently? How was the process?

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I recently found out that if you ask and depending on the expiry of your passport they will issue Canadians multi year visa up to 10 years ! You just gotta have long expiry on your passport because they will only issue up to the expiry date of your passport.

  2. Re: “tricking” 72-hr window. This is EXTREMELY risky. You can absolutely book a separate connecting flight onto a 3rd country, but if you do.. you better take it. Chinese immigration has the right to detain you if they believe you are trying to circumvent paying the visa fees.

    For example, if you book this fare, then nest a quick immediate turn in ICN then come back to PEK. Could raise a bunch of red flags.

    The rule is ‘really’ designed to allow stopovers on Chinese airlines to other destinations. Not for one to book a cheap flight, stay in PEK for a day, then trick their rules..

  3. If you’re a dual citizen it’s easy to get the visa applied to the non-US passport as long as you give them both. I did this in September, $30 for a single entry.

  4. Don’t try to even bother the trick ! You are not the first one thought that idea. Because unlike US, Chinese immigration requires stamps both upon arrival and departure. It is easy for them to simply check stamps to figure out what happened. In the past, there were people fooled immigration officer and get caught, what ended up happen was they were added to the “black list” when they arrive at immigration counter, there was also a fine. (Not too much though, for some reason, Chinese government tends to fine little on almost everything, same misconduct usually cause a few times more fine in US or in Europe)
    What you can do , however, is actually buy another ticket and go visit a different countries. Oneworld has policy that if you miss the connecting flight due to the flight before, they will rebook you for free, even it is not on same ticket ( both flights need to be operated by oneworld, no more than 24 hours layover time) this is probably a better choice consider both Beijing / Shanghai doesn’t have too much things to see and their have really badir pollution. Neighbors countries like Japan,Taiwan and Thailand are more fun.
    If you really want to visit China, I would recommend to visit Tibet even it requires a special ID. InterContiental Luhasa is in point break lists.

  5. @Mitch
    Tried the dual citizen trick at the LA consulate in January. They would only accept the U.S. passport. Since there was no US visa or green card in foreign passport, as stated in the post above.

  6. @Mitch:

    Where did you apply? At least in the SF consulate, if you use a non-US passport, they’ll require a proof of residency like a work visa or green car, which for most dual citizens won’t have.

  7. > but it’s really risky.

    This needs to emphasized. proper visa is something you should not mess with, because if something goes wrong it could come bite you in the ass, hard. This is even more true in a country like China where your Western niceties doesn’t apply.

    If you are going on this cheap fare, you already got a helluva a deal. Taking chances on visa and trying to save a few bucks is a really, really bad idea. These new visas are good for 10 years so they are 10x the value of the old ones. Just pay for one and play by the rules and have one less potential problem to worry about.

  8. Ben, this was in the NYC consulate but I’d assume the rules are the same at all of the US consulates. My wife went there, she said the clerk knew exactly what we were trying to do to save some $$$. She has an EU passport and green card, I have an EU passport and US passport, and she simply requested all four documents and made a note for the agent to issue my visa in the EU passport.

  9. I highly recommend these guys for the southern (mint green) states to access the Houston, TX consulate. expressvisa2china.com I just used them this week. Ask for Nina.

  10. Went online and completed the visa application form and attached the photo. The worse part was simply waiting in line to hand them the forms. Went to Chinese embassy in San Francisco at 8:30 am today (Friday), which opened at 9am. I was #21 for visas and handed in my forms at 10am. The Chinese rep looked thru them for three minutes. Otherwise a piece of cake. I requested an expedited 10 year visa and can pick it up on Monday. Total cost $160.

  11. I live in the DC area, so plan on dropping off my application in person to avoid a visa service company fee. My passport expires in two years do you guys think they will give me a ten year visa? I know the site said that if your passport expires just bring both passports to China and the visa will still be valid. Does the expiration date of your passport affect their decision on length of visa?

  12. @ Brian
    My passport expires 2021, but there wasn’t an issue with my request for the 10 year visa. I did place a note on the application that I was planning a lengthy tour for the future, but did not have the dates established. Perhaps that helped.

  13. A question I’ve not seen answered–Can you do this twice on one trip? Eg, book a round trip to Japan from PEK that requires you to stay in a hotel in PEK both inbound and outbound. I may do a day in PEK but my main interest is Japan and I don’t want a visa since I have no real interest in China.

  14. A local radio DJ tried to use the 72 hour transit rule to return to Detroit.

    After a several hour interrogation, he was told he would be denied entry. He was required to sign 7 pages of documents printed in Chinese.

    He was then told he would be returning on the flight he had just come in on a few hours ago.

    He told them there was no way he’d get through security and make the flight, as it left in 25 minutes and he was still in their office.

    The commander assured him he would make the flight.

    Four soldiers with rifles surrounded him and marched him to the front of security. They let him through. The four soldiers then marched him to the Delta counter and said he needed to be on this flight. The GAs agreed.

    Nothing like 14 hours in coach immediately after 14 hours in coach.

    I would not mess with skipping out on the visa.

  15. Do you have hotel recommendations for Beijing?
    Would look at a great value paid stay, or good value use of points, or any good Marriott hotel (too many Rewards points…)

  16. So to be clear, the $60 surcharge for those living outside of the DC embassy’s jurisdiction is Allied’s surcharge, not the Chinese visa surcharge. I am not sure why they are implying it is China that is imposing the surcharge, the Chinese consular general website makes zero mention of a surcharge for applying a visa through one of their non-DC sites and none of the other visa processing service agencies have the $60 surcharge.

    With that $60 surcharge, Allied’s fees are $105, not $45.

  17. I’ll be flying FRA-PVG with connection in HKG and then 2 days later PVG-FRA with a connection in NRT.
    This should be possible as I’m coming from HKG and going to NRT!? I’m a little bit worried though, because I’m just for a connection in HKG and NRT and it somehow looks like FRA-PVG-FRA….do you think it could be a problem??

  18. @ Thomas — It might take some arguing, but technically I think you should be fine. The argument could certainly be made that you’re in “transit.”

  19. Some false information in there:
    “If you live in one of the other states, the Chinese Embassy will assess an additional $60 fee, since it’s technically outside of DC’s jurisdiction.”

    Not true. The Chinese Embassy doesn’t assess additional fees for out-of-jurisdiction applicants. I live in DC and have applied for my friend living in a southern state many times and there was never “additional $60 fees”.

  20. @Lucky–I have used Allied Passport and Visa before and liked them. Today was in DC and went to their office at 1 St. Matthews Court (where the magic happens!) and applied for extra passport pages as I did not have enough for my China visa. Peter and Steve are terrific–just FYI they keep a whiteboard tallying which bloggers people mention for referrals (to get a $5 credit) and One Mile At a Time tops the list!

  21. Hello Lucky,
    One enquiry: I’m flying tomorrow to Shanghai (inbound), I already have my Chinese tourist visa. I haven’t booked an outbound flight as I don’t know yet where am I gonna head next. Do you think my Chinese tourist visa will enough to clear immigration or will they ask me for an outbound flight?

    thanks in advance for your quick reply.

  22. @ Milo — They might ask for it, so I’d just put something on hold and print out a copy of it, if I were you. Doesn’t actually have to be ticketed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *