Transit Visa Exemptions in China: 24 Hour, 72 Hour, and 144 Hour Options

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By Dezan Shira & Associates

China Visas

Foreign travelers transiting through China have several options for transit visa exemptions. These transit visa exemptions allow eligible foreign travelers a visa free visit for 24, 72, or 144 hours.

Although requirements for each transit visa exemption are different, each transit visa exemption stipulates that foreign travelers are only eligible when traveling through China between two different countries. Further, onward travel must occur within 24, 72, or 144 hours of arrival.

To obtain a transit visa exemption, travelers should review eligibility requirements, and confirm their eligibility with their local Chinese embassy. After confirmation, travelers must communicate their intention to obtain a transit visa exemption to their airline prior to travel. The airline will liaise with border control officials, who grant transit visa exemptions to travelers that meet requirements after verification.

In most cases, the transit visa exemption only allows the traveler to visit the province of their arrival.

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The 24 hour Transit Visa Exemption

Foreign travelers transiting through China within 24 hours to reach another country of destination may be eligible for a 24 hour Transit Visa Exemption. This visa exemption is available to all foreigners, and most ports of entry in China.

The 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption

Foreign travelers transiting through China within 72 hours to reach another country of destination may be eligible for the 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption. This visa exemption is only available to citizens of participating countries traveling through participating ports of entry in China.

To obtain this visa exemption, the foreign national must have a valid passport from one of the 53 countries, which includes:

  • 24 Schengen countries in Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland);
  • 15 other European countries (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, UK, and Ukraine);
  • Six countries in North and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and US);
  • Six Asian countries (Brunei, Japan, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, and UAE); and,
  • Two Oceanic countries (Australia and New Zealand).

Further, eligible travelers must be transiting through one of the following 19 cities: Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Harbin, Kunming, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, or Xi’an.

Notably, authorities continue to expand the list of cities where 72 hour Transit Visa Exemptions are applicable.

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The 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption

Foreign travelers transiting through China within 144 hours to reach another country of destination may be eligible for the 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption. This visa exemption is available to citizens of countries that are eligible for the 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption; however, the number of paticipating cities is more limited.

To obtain this visa exemption, the foreign national must have a valid passport from one of the 53 countries that are eligible for the 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption. Currently, the 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption is only available to travelers transiting through six cities: Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Jieyang, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Nanjing.

Authorities announced that the visa exemption will be expanded to Beijing, Tianjin, and another location in Hebei province, while other cities will likely follow.


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5 responses to “Transit Visa Exemptions in China: 24 Hour, 72 Hour, and 144 Hour Options”

  1. Iamhere says:

    I have a few comments regarding this article:

    1. By referring to it as a “visa exemption” then you are inferring that there is no visa that is required, but it is rather a visa on arrival.

    2. Passengers arriving in one area may not leave that area for the duration of the time. So, if you arrive in Beijing then you can’t leave the Beijing city with that visa. There is an exception in some areas for a greater area allowed.

    3. Passengers must show a ticket for an on going destination in the same direction of travel, so for example Los Angeles –> Beijing –> Los Angeles would not work because the continuing destination is not westward.

  2. China Briefing says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read our article. Now, let’s dig-in:

    In response to your first question, the transit visa exemption is a very much a visa exemption. You receive an exemption for a visa that you would normally need to have. We are splitting hairs here, but it’s slightly different from visa free travel, and it’s the language used by authorities in the country.

    In response to your second question, each region has its own stipulations – some regions restrict movement within the region itself. Any restriction will have the greatest effect on travelers who obtained a 72- or 144-hour exemption and want to fly on to another city (which won’t be allowed).

    In response to your third question, the direction of the flight is not as important as the destination – you can’t get a visa exemption with a return ticket. To obtain a visa exemption, you need to be flying through China in transit to another country: from the US through China to India, for example.

    We hope this is helpful, but please feel free to reach out to our visa experts here: http://www.dezshira.com/services/payroll-human-resource-administration

  3. torrent56 says:

    It’s good to see an article explaining something that could confuse people a lot. However,

    1. I don’t think the 144-hour Guangdong province transit policy has been implemented yet. At the moment it’s still only the 72-hour visa transit policy.

    2. Citizens from Japan, Singapore, Brunei and Serbia actually wouldn’t benefit from this policy because they can already travel to China visa free for either 15 or 30 days.

  4. China Briefing says:

    Hello, and thanks for taking the time to write – we are happy to know this topic interests you.

    Thanks for raising the issue regarding Guangdong province-wide implementation. To date, we understand the 144-hour exemption is only available in two cities within Guangdong: Guangzhou and Shenzhen. As it’s a new option, we suspect that this exemption will remain limited to a small number of cities over the next year before any further expansion.

    And you are right — international travelers transiting through China should first check whether or not they are eligible for visa free travel. If Chinese authorities have granted citizens of your country permission for visa free travel, there is little need to exempt yourself from a visa in the first place. In either case, it’s always best to check with your local Chinese embassy before travel.

    Thanks again for your feedback.

  5. torrent56 says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for your reply! From what I know though in Guangdong province right now the only airport that allows visa-free transit for 72 hours is Guangzhou Airport which was implemented years ago now. Shenzhen Airport and the other airports haven’t implemented the policy yet.

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