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. 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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52 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:

  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:

    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.

  6. Katie says:

    Hi – I am planning to fly from London – Shanghai and use the 144 hour exemption as I will fly on to Japan. I will then fly from Japan back to Shanghai to spend 1 night and take the return flight to London, leaving the airport to go to my parents place in Shanghai and then re-checking my bags in, using the 24 hour exemption. Would there be any issue using two exemptions within a 2 week period? Thanks in advance!

  7. Eric says:


    I do have a specific question on the 144 hours Exemption Visa.
    I will be travelling from Japan to Shanghai by a cruise. I will arrive on a Friday morning and will depart on Monday evening with a Flight to Paris.
    As a French citizen, I believe I am eligible for the 144 hours Exemption Visa however, I would like to confirm this with you. I believe the port of entry and departure are in the list of Shanghai approved ones.

    Can you confirm that I do not need a visa in such situation?

    Thanks in advance,

  8. Michael Blackwood says:

    I see from your article that……. as of December 28, 2017, the 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption should by now have been extended to North China’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, namely: Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, and Qinhuangdao.
    Does this mean that when I arrive in Tianjin by Cruise Ship; I will be able to leave the ship to go on tours in Beijing area by obtaining a 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption at the port ?

    We are in port for 60 hours, before the ship leaves for South Korea. I think this makes us eligible as UK passport holders, but I cannot get the cruise company to recognise this recent change.
    Do you know if it is possible to get the 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption at Tianjin Cruise Terminal ?

    I hope you can help by clarifying this as It would mean we wouldn’t need to apply for full tourist visas just to visit Beijing.
    Thank you

  9. China Briefing says:

    Hello Michael,

    The 144 hour visa exemption should apply at the cruise port. However, we recommend contacting your cruise line, local Chinese consulate, or the visa office of the Tianjin port to confirm your eligibility. Please contact our HR specialists for more information:

  10. Thomas Spriggs says:

    Thank you for your information. We intend to travel from Guam-Philippines-Beijing-Philippines-Guam under the 144-hr TWOV program. 1) Will this travel itinerary work? 2) Can we travel within the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region under this program? 3) If yes, can a minor with less than 1 year before expiration on passport (11 months) travel in this program? The regular tourist visa requires >1 year left in passport.

  11. Allan says:

    We are here now at Shanghai Intl Airpor for a 12 hr layover between Manila and Los Angeles. We were not allowed to go outside the airport to tour. We were not able to avail the 24-hr transit visa. Immigration told us that beginning Feb 1, 2018, they are not allowing foreigners to go out the city on a transit visa.

  12. China Briefing says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience; we are certainly interested to find out more about what is happening with the 24-hour transit visa program. If the change you describe becomes a regular feature, it will only increase the importance of the transit visa exemption program.

  13. kristine says:

    I am a US resident with Philippine passport, We are traveling to the Philippines this March and we have a 24 hr lay over in China. Are we allowed to go out of the airport (Pudong) and stay ina hotel in Shanghai? Your response is greatly appreciated.

  14. China Briefing says:

    Hello Kristine,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Eligibility for visa exemptions in China depends on your passport, not your residency. We recommend that you contact Pudong airport to confirm whether you are eligible for a visa exemption.

  15. Jennifer says:


    I hold a Canadian passport and will be flying from Canada to Shanghai in April 2018 and staying for 3 days in Shanghai then going on a cruise from Shanghai port to Japan. I will return back to Shanghai 7 days later and then flying out from Shanghai to Canada.

    Please confirm if the 144 hours visa exception applies in both situations.

    Thank you in advance!

  16. China Briefing says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    As a Canadian passport holder, you should qualify for a visa exemption when traveling to Shanghai by air. However, you should contact the relevant port that your cruise ship is entering and exiting from to confirm that it is eligible to process visa exemptions.

  17. WILSON D. says:

    I am a canadian passport holder at pudong airport had a 20hrs layover immigration did not allow us to go out of the terminal they said we need visa. They said if you stay 2 nights in china they will give you visa.

  18. Jane says:


    My husband and I are Canadian citizens. We will be traveling from Vancouver to Beijing, hope to spend one night, then fly onward to Ulanbaator, Mongolia. On the way back from Ulanbaatar Mongolia, about 3 weeks later, we would like to get the 144 hour visa exception to stay in Beijing before flying home to Vancouver. Will there be any problem using the visa exception twice in one month?


  19. Wyu says:


    We’re planning a trip to North Korea and the only way to do this is for us to pass through Beijing. Our itinerary will be: Amsterdam – Beijing – Pyongyang – Beijing – Amsterdam. We will be staying in Beijing twice on 2 separate occasions of no more than 48 hours per stay within a week. Will the 144 hour maximum reset after we go through customs and onwards to Pyongyang? So will we have another 144 hours when we arrive back in Beijing from Pyongyang? Our 2 stays combined will be more than 144 hours if it does not.



  20. Paul says:

    HI I am a Canadian passport holder travelling to Mongolia via Beijing
    in May 2018. I have purchased a return ticket Vancouver-Beijing-Vanouver
    and a separate Beijing-Ulaan Baator-Beijing return ticket. I will be 1 month in Mongolia.

    I plan to spend 1 night in Beijing en route to Mongolia, and up to 144 hours in Beijing en route returning to Vancouver. Am I eligible for transit exemption both ways?

  21. China Briefing says:

    Hi Wyu,

    Assuming that you are using a Dutch passport, you should be eligible for two 72 hour transit visa exemptions. We recommend that you contact your airline, tour group, or the Beijing airport to confirm your eligibility first.

  22. China Briefing says:

    Hi Jane,

    You and your husband should be eligible for a 24 or 72 hour visa exemption, followed by a 144 hour visa exemption. However, we recommend that you contact your airline or the Beijing airport to confirm your eligibility first.

  23. China Briefing says:

    Hi Paul,

    You should qualify for either a 24 hour or 72 hour visa exemption on your first trip, and then a 144 hour visa exemption on your second.

    To qualify for the visa exemption, you must prove that you are en route to a third country. When arriving from Vancouver, you should bring proof of your plans to transit to Ulaan Baator. Likewise, you must show evidence of your next trip to Vancouver upon your return to Beijing.

    We recommend that you contact your airline or the Beijing airport to confirm your eligibility.

  24. Jon says:

    Has there been any recent changes to the laws for the 24 hour visa exemption? My wife and I recently had a 12 hour layover in Shanghai going from Cambodia through Shanghai to Honolulu. We filled out the form required but were turned away by China’s Customs officer. She said since our connecting flight was the same day as our arrival, we were not permitted to enter China using the 24 hour visa exemption. We had made several reservations in Shanghai to go site seeing and try some restaurants. Is there something political that has made China’s Customs discriminate against Americans? We talked to other passengers on our flight and no one that was from America was allowed in on the 24 hour visa exemption, however many others who had a different countries’ passport were allowed in. Since it was a hazardous air quality day in Shanghai, it’s probably for the best we didn’t visit, but I’m just wondering if there were any laws that recently would prevent us from using the 24 hour visa exemption? Thanks!

  25. Navaraj koirala says:

    With Canadian passport,In June I am flying from Vancouver to Kathmandu with 15 hours stoppage in Shangai,then kunming(10 hours layover) to Kathmandu.Do I get a visa exempt to go and visit Shangai and kunming.

  26. Tina says:


    My husband and I are Iranian citizens.We are traveling from Tehran to the Tokyo this May and we have a 9 hour lay over in Beijing. Are we eligible for 24-hour transit visa to get the boarding pass for our second flight to Tokyo? bit confused because some says 24 hours transit visa is available for all foreigners who hold tickets to a third country and have booked seats on international airlines, ships, trains no matter of their passport. I know our passport is not eligible for 24 hr transit visa in some airport in China but not sure if it is the case in Beijing. Unfortunately China embassy in Tehran are not very help full on this matter. Your help much appreciated. Thanks!

  27. China Briefing says:

    Hello Tina,

    If you are not leaving the airport, you are eligible to stay for 24 hours to connect your flight. You will not be able to leave the airport, however. To confirm your status, we recommend that you contact your airline.

  28. China Briefing says:

    Hello Jon,

    Travelers who would like to leave the airport usually apply for a 72 hour or 144 hour visa exemption. The officials may have considered the layover too brief to grant such an exemption. We recommend contacting the relevant port of entry prior to arrival to confirm eligibility.

  29. China Briefing says:

    Hello Navaraj,

    Because you are traveling to two Chinese regions before transiting to the third country, it is possible that you will not be granted a 72 hour or 144 hour visa exemption. The visa exemption only allows you to travel in the region of your port of entry. We recommend that you contact your local Chinese embassy or consulate for more information.

  30. Sabrinalal says:

    Hi my parents r travelling to Tianjin on a cruise Ship n staying for one night in Beijing n catch the flight back. Bacelona the cruise company tell us that we don’t need a visa could u please email us back because we r leaving tomorrow to catch our cruises.

  31. Bailey says:

    So I am a US citizen and I am flying to Shanghai (staying ~96 hours), then traveling to Tokyo and Chiang Mai Thailand for 2 weeks, then flying back to Shanghai to connect to a flight back to the US. Am I able to apply for a 144 hour TWOV for my first trip, and then 24 hour TWOV for when I come back for my flight to the US?

  32. China Briefing says:


    We recommend that you contact the port of entry in Tianjin to confirm whether the port can grant a visa that would allow your parents to travel to Beijing on a visa exemption.

  33. China Briefing says:

    Hello Bailey,

    The scenario you outlined should be feasible. For the 24 hour exemption on your return, however, you might not be able to leave the airport, unless you are able to get a 72 hour or 144 hour exemption. We recommend that you check with the airport or the entry-exit bureau for confirmation.

  34. Maurice Woodward says:

    My wife and I are British Passport Holders,and flying to Guangzhou in December 2018, from Taipei with onward flight to Christchurch. We want to stay in Guangzhou on a visa free exemption but I cannot establish whether or not the 144 hour has come into force or it is still 72 hours. Please advise.

  35. China Briefing says:

    Hello Maurice,

    From our understanding, the 144 hour visa exemption will be announced for Guangzhou but has not been implemented yet. However, by December 2018 it could be. We recommend that you contact the Guangzhou airport or entry-exit authorities closer to your travel date for confirmation.

  36. Wilmar says:

    I have 2 questions:

    1. Are you able to use the 144 hour visa exemption if you are flying with multiple carriers? For example, flying from Manila to Shanghai, staying for 4 days and then departing to Canada with another air carrier.

    2. Do the flights need to be booked as a multi-city flight to use the 144 hour visa, or can you book multiple 1 way tickets? Example: one way ticket from Manila to Shanghai and then another one way ticket from Shanghai to Canada.

  37. Hamzao says:

    Hello I am considering flying Stockholm-Paris-Shanghai-amsterdam-Stockholm ( I will only be connecting in Paris and amsterdam)

    and i just contacted the immigration in shanghai and they told me that they only count the last flight for me that would be the Paris-shanghai and Shanghai-Amsterdam flight, for example i can fly Stockholm-Paris-Shanghai but not the same route back on the return flight i must fly to another country/City like Shanghai-Amsterdam-Stockholm?!

    My final route would be as i mentioned above including the connecting flights in Paris and Amsterdam


    Do you guys think this is the right way and am i entitled to the 144-hour visa if i fly this routes? just double checking with you guys?!

  38. China Briefing says:

    Hello Wilmar,

    For both of these issues, having proof of travel to your next destination should be sufficient to qualify for the exemption. However, we still recommend that you confirm with the airport before you travel.

  39. China Briefing says:

    Hello Hamzao,

    Your proposed itinerary sounds like it should work. However, we recommend that you speak with immigration once more to reconfirm before your trip.

  40. Maria says:

    I’m an american citizen and I will be traveling in June from Toronto to Beijing 3 days and then leave to Hong kong and then back to toronto. will I be able to use the 144 hr transit visa, what documents do I need to give Airline in Canada?

  41. Peter Thomson says:

    I am travelling by air from Australia to Shanghai for a 4 night sightseeing tour before boarding a 22 night Princess cruise back to Australia. The first port after departing China is Busan Sth Korea. On arrival I would like to apply for a 144hr transit free visa. I will have all the necessary documentation ie: valid Australian passport, proof of accommodation and boarding passes for the cruise. Is there any problem to be expected? Thank you

  42. Bas says:

    Would it be possible to fly from Amsterdam to Shanghai, stay 144 hours and fly back to Brussels, Belgium?

  43. Bas says:

    Would it be possible to fly Brussels- Shanghai, stay 144 hrs, fly back to Amsterdam?

  44. Lorin says:


    I have a roundtrip from Orlando-Newark-Beijing-Shanghai and then have a flight booked to Manila from Shanghai. Will this be eligible?

  45. China Briefing says:

    Hello Maria,

    You should present your airline as well as the Beijing airport with proof of your travel to a third destination. We recommend that you contact the Beijing airport before your trip to confirm your eligibility.

  46. China Briefing says:

    Hello Peter,

    Your itinerary sounds valid for the 144 hour visa. However, we recommend that you contact the Shanghai airport to confirm your eligibility and ensure that you don’t encounter any unexpected problems.

  47. China Briefing says:

    Hello Bas,

    If you have proof of travel to a third country, you should be eligible for the 144 hour exemption. However, we recommend that you contact that Shanghai airport to confirm your eligibility.

  48. China Briefing says:

    Hello Lorin,

    The visa exemption generally only allows you to travel in the region of your port of entry. Because you are going to both Beijing and Shanghai, you may encounter difficulties. We recommend contacting both of the ports of entry to confirm your eligibility and consider your options.

  49. Anna says:

    Is there any limit for how many times I can use 144 hour visa examption in a period of time?

    I already applied once 144 hour free visa in march, and would like to travel again.

    I have meetings planned like this travelling by air:
    Home – Shanghai 4 days – Korea 2 days – Shanghai 2 days – HongKong – Home
    So it will be two times entering China, but both of them will be less than 144 hours.
    Do you think it could work?

    Thank you in advance!
    Kind regards,

  50. Mark says:


    I am an American citizen and passport holder residing in Italy with an upcoming planned trip this August from Milan-Beijing-Tokyo, and then 2.5 weeks later from Tokyo-Shanghai-Milan, planning on using either the 72 or 144hr visa-free transit travel as my option each way. I have three questions:

    1) I possess an Italian residency permit which expire annually in August each year, whereupon I submit the renewal application and fee and await the new permit card which is given in November. While waiting for the card, I am given a receipt with all the identification numbers as a sort of ‘stand-in’ for the permit card itself. Will this cause a problem? Could I just travel without bringing up the residency in Italy given that my passport is American?

    2) I often layover for 24hrs when going to and from the USA/Italy, meaning I have several Turkish stamps in my passport. Is this something which will raise eyebrows and/or result in denial of visa-free-transit permission? I have heard rumors of some people being denied entry due to Turkish stamps in their passport, so I am just checking.

    3) I have an expired Italian visa issued in the United States in my passport for ‘motivi religiosi (religious motives)’ due to work with a non-profit. Will this cause problems in the eyes of the customs officials?

    Thanks in advance for any further clarity,

  51. China Briefing says:

    Hi Anna,

    Your itinerary sounds valid for the exemption. However, we recommend that you confirm with the Shanghai airport to confirm your eligibility.

  52. China Briefing says:

    Hello Mark,

    Thank you for your inquiry. Please contact our HR specialists for more information on your situation:

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