China Visa policy – 72-hour free transit

Everyone who visited China in the last few years is well aware that to go through customs and enter China, a valid visa is necessary. The procedure may not be complicated, and you can always ask some specialized company for help. Still, it takes time and money: filling out the form, preparing the documents, delivering them to the embassy or consulate, waiting for the decision – surely, few enjoy those. If you have a layover in China ad meet the requirements, you can make use of a China Visa policy, which is 72-hour free transit.

China Visa policy – 72-hour free transit

Thanks to the 72-hour visa-free transit policy in China, air passengers from 51 countries are allowed to transit and stay for up to 72 hours in 15 China cities without a visa. It is possible that in the future, the list will be longer.

NOTE! The 72/144-hour free transit policy is suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Which foreign nationals can stay in China without a visa?

Foreigners from 51 countries that enjoy the 72-hour China visa-free policy:

  • 24 Schengen Agreement Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
  • 13 Other European Countries: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Russia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia
  • 6 American Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, the United States
  • 6 Asian Countries: Brunei, Japan, Korea, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Qatar
  • 2 Oceania Countries: Australia, New Zealand.
72-hour free transit in China

What are the requirements?

Foreign nationals who want to apply for the visa exemption have to provide the following:

  • a valid international traveling documents
  • air ticket for a connecting flight with a confirmed flight date and seat for a third country (region) traveling within 72 hours.

The transit passengers must arrive at eligible airports in Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Xiamen, Wuhan, Tianjin, Haerbin, Qingdao, and Changsha with a connecting flight to a third country (region).

How to apply for the exemption?

If you are a foreign national coming from above mentioned countries and meet the requirements, submit your request to the airline company that carries you to China when boarding. The carrier will make the application to the border control authorities, and you will be granted a temporary entry.

The 72-hour period starts as soon as permission is issued. You should possess an air ticket to a third country (which may include Hong Kong or Macau), so it is impossible to travel on a route such as London-Beijing-London. For someone, who is going to some Asian country and is changing flights in Beijing, the new law is very convenient and allows one to spare money and time.

What to do after arrival?

At the airport, claim your luggage and go through customs. At the immigration, use the special lane/counter for your free transit. If you stay in one place over 24 hours, register at local police station. You do not have to do it if you stay at a hotel, the staff will do it for you. You can stop only in one city in mainland China.

After arrival I have to leave the authorized region, what do I do?

If you have to leave the precinct, you must apply for a visa to the exit-entry administration department of the Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB). If you fail to do so, your residence in China outside the designated area will be illegal.

Is it possible to leave China via another airport?

It is not possible, since you can only move within designated predict. For instance, if you arrive at Beijing Airport, you cannot leave China from Guangzhou. For the 72-hours TWOV you must enter and exit by the same port, but if you enjoy a 144-hour transit without visa, you can enter/leave from sea/land ports if there are any in the area.

What about 144-hour free-visa transit?

People transiting in following areas that get the exemption can spend 144-hour instead of 72-hour period:

  • Guangdong – the whole province
  • Qingdao – the whole Shandong Province
  • Dalian or Shenyang – the whole of Liaoning Province
  • Shanghai, Zhejiang, or Jiangsu can move around the three places
  • Xi’an Xianyang Airport – Xi’an and Xianyang
  • Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei – within cities
  • Chengdu, Kunming, Wuhan, Chongqing or Xiamen – within cities.

The direction of changes in China’s visa policy is obvious. Obtaining a long-term residence permit is difficult, not to mention the formalities you must face when applying for a work permit. The government is aiming at protecting the job market and keeping troublemaking foreigners out of the country, except a few specialists in demand. As for the short stays, the regulations are getting more liberal. Maybe more foreign nationals will be able to travel to China without a visa soon.