How to Visit China Without a Visa: The 72-hour Visa-Free Transit

Q: I am going to China and I don't have time to apply for a Chinese visa, what shall I do? How can I visit China without visa?
A: You can buy two flight tickets. One from your home country to one of China’s 72 hour visa-free transit cities. The other one from that Chinese city to Hong Kong, Macau, or any country near China. Make sure the departure time of the ticket leaving China is within 72 hours after arriving in the Chinese city. Then you can visit China without getting a visa in advance. Of course you need to make sure your passport is issued by the 51 Counties listed below.

In order to facilitate the international visitors’ short stay in China, 72-Hour Visa Free Transit policy is carried out in more and more cities. At present, eighteen cities adopt this policy. This policy allows transit passengers with passport of 51 countries to stay for up to 72 hours without a visa on direct transit.

Cities Enjoying the Policy

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Harbin, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, Tianjin, Nanjing, Qingdao, Changsha and Hangzhou

Areas Allowed to Stay

  • Passengers transiting in Guangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, or Changsha are allowed to travel in the whole province.
  • Passengers transiting in Beijing, Chongqing, Harbin, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, or Tianjin cannot leave the administrative area of the transit city.
  • Passengers transiting in Shanghai, Zhejiang, or Jiangsu can move around the three places.
  • Passengers stopping over in Dalian or Shenyang can travel in these two cities.
  • Passengers transiting in Xian Xianyang Airport are permitted to travel in the administrative areas of Xian and Xianyang.

Qualified Countries

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: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania

6 American Countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile

2 Oceania Countries: Australia, New Zealand

6 Asian Countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar

Conditions for Application

  1. The confirmed seat onward ticket and valid visa to a third country or region (if required) are needed for entry. Based on the latest information, the 72 hours starts from 00:00 the day following the entry date in almost all the airports. For example, if an air passenger arrives in Guangzhou at 08:00 on June 2nd, then the latest time for him to leave is 23:59 on June 5. In this case, the actual stopover time is more than 72 hours. However, to play on the safe side, passengers are recommended to be more conservative and not to exceed the “strict 72 hours” which counts from the flights’ scheduled arrival time to the departure time.
  2. The flights can only stop in one Chinese city, meaning passengers have to enter and exit from the same city, except in Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu, where the 144-hour visa-free transit has been implemented. For instance, if a flight lands in Xian via Beijing, passengers are not able to enjoy the policy. In addition, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are regarded as a third region in terms of transit issues. If a flight passes USA – Beijing – Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan, passengers are able to enjoy.
  3. Only use flights to transfer in China. Passengers using other vehicles (including using flight for single trip) are not eligible to enjoy the policy.
  4. Passengers are required to leave from the same airport that they arrive, except in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, where they can enter or leave from any port in Shanghai, Nanjing Lukou Airport, or Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport.

Documents for Application

  • Valid passport
  • Visa for a third country or region
  • A full completed Arrival/Departure Card (including name, nationality, passport no., visa no. & issuance place, flight no., purpose of visit, date of birth, gender)
  • An onward ticket with confirmed seat are needed

Procedure

Inform the airlines when boarding – Fill an Arrival/Departure Card on the flight – Apply the 72-hour permit – Claim the luggage – Go through the custom – Leave airport

Tips:

  1. It is necessary to inform the airline at check-in, so that they can declare your request to the airport custom before landing. Passengers transiting via Beijing Capital International Airport can apply for this free transit permit after arrival.
  2. There is a special counter/lane for the 72-hour free transit at the immigration, so passengers can go there directly by following the signs. For example, the immigration channels 2 to 4 are for 72-hour free transit passengers in Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.
  3. After the request to enjoy the 72-hour free transit is approved, the officer will stamp a stay permit on your passport. The duration of stay is written on the passport. Remember to tell the officer that one wants to use the 72-hour free transit if he/she already has a valid visa for China.
  4. After leaving the airport, remember to register at local police station within 24 hours of arrival if one wants to stay over 24 hours. Those who live with family or friends need to go to register in person at the police station with relatives or friends. Those who live in hotels do not need to go, because the hotels will do it for the guests.
  5. If visitors are unable to depart on time due to unavoidable reasons, such as flight cancellation or treatment of sudden disease, they need to apply for a visa from Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB). Otherwise, tourists cannot apply for an extension of stay.

Difference between 72-hour Free Transit and Direct Transit

Direct Transit within 24 hours is available for any nationality passenger and it is applicable to any vehicle, while the 72-hour Free Transit is only possible for passengers from 51 countries and requires to transit in the airport.

Other Services for Free Transit

There are service centers for transit passengers in the terminals, offering rest places with drinking water and reading materials if they do not want to leave the airport. For visa-free transit passengers, the airports also provide services for currency exchange, mobile phone rental, car rental, left luggage, as well as local souvenir shops. Tour buses are available from the terminals for the convenience of tourists.

FAQ about 72-hour Visa-free Transit

  1. What documents are required for passengers from the above 51 countries to benefit from this policy and apply for permits to go out of the airport?

A: Passengers are qualified to transit in those cities without visa only if they have valid passport or travel documents, as well as the confirmed flight ticket onward to the third country or region and valid visa (if required).

2.  How and where can I apply for a transit permit if I plan to go out of the airport during my stopover?

A: You can put forward your request for transit to your airline in advance, so that the airline can declare this to the Immigration Inspection prior to your visit. You will be granted a transit permit at the airport if you meet all requirements. NOTE: Beijing Capital International Airport has now changed this procedure, passengers can apply directly for 72 hour free transit permit after arrival at the airport.

3.  I plan to enter Shanghai first and then buy ticket to another country within 72 hours. Am I allowed entry and transit without visa?

A: According to the requirements, you must provide confirmed ticket to the third country or region when apply for the free transit permit. Otherwise, you can not enjoy this policy.

4.  I have a flight ticket from New York to Shanghai, and a separate ticket back to Los Angles. May I use this 72 hour free transit?

A: The answer is NO. The place of departure and destination should not be in the same country or region. If you fly from New York to a third country via Shanghai, then you apply to this policy.

5. If I can not depart within 3 days, what should I do?

A: If you cannot depart from the transit city within the 3 days allowed, then you should apply for a Chinese visa from local PSB.

6.  I plan to take a flight to Beijing for 3 days, and then take Trans-Siberian train from there to Ulan Bator in Mongolia. Am I eligible for this trip?

A: Visa is required if you visit China this way. 72 hour free transit policy is for air passengers only. That is to say, you have to leave by air from the same airport. For passengers who plan to enter or leave China by train or cruise, they should apply for either Chinese transit (G type) or tourist (L type) in advance.

7.  If the arrival and departure of flights is more than 72 hours, is it permissible remain in the airport for some of the time and go to the city for the 72 hours or is the timing form the flight times?

A: If it is only several hours more than the requirements, you can apply to enjoy this policy without waiting. According to the latest information from the airports, the 72 hours are calculated from 00:00 the following day of the entry date to the scheduled departure time in almost all the airports. However, if you happen to transfer in Beijing, you had better consult the airport in advance by dialing 0086-10-56095400, just in case that the 72-hour period counts from the scheduled arrival time to the departure time.

8.  If I understood correctly, even with this free transit policy for 72 hours, a transit permit has to be done at the airport when arriving? And this transit permit has to be then registered in a police station in the 24 next hours? What happens if my stay there is only of 20 hours? Can I save myself this registration which is probably time-consuming?

A: Yes, you are right, the transit permit should be done at the airport on arrival. But the registration will be done when you check into a hotel. It is not necessary to register yourself personally at the local police station.

Anyway, if you still have questions on 72 hour visa-free transit, please contact the Immigration Office or airport for more information.

Beijing Airport Immigration Inspection 0086-10-56095400

Shanghai Airport Immigration Inspection 0086-21-51105100

Guangzhou Airport Immigration Inspection 0086-20-36066950

Chengdu Airport 0086-28-85205555

Chongqing Airport 0086-23-966666

Shenyang Airport 0086-24-96833

Dalian Airport 0086-411-96600

Harbin Airport 0086-451-82894220

Xian Airport 0086-29-88796997

Guilin Airport 0086-773-2845359

Kunming Airport 0086-871-96566

Hangzhou Airport 0086-571-96299

Wuhan Airport Immigration Inspection 0086-27-85333600

Tianjin Airport Immigration Inspection 0086-22-24905908

Qingdao Airport 0086-532-96567

Nanjing Airport 0086-25-968890

Changsha Airport 0086-731-96777

Xiamen Airport Immigration Inspection 0086-592-5706805

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