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.
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.
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. The 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption was first introduced to three cities in East China’s Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang area: Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing. As of December 28, 2017, the exemption was expanded to North China’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, namely: Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, and Qinhuangdao.
Authorities have announced that the visa exemption will be expanded to South China’s Guangdong province, in the cities of Guangzhou, Jieyang, and Shenzhen.
This article was originally published on September 6, 2017 and has been updated with the latest regulatory changes.
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