Last Thursday, vice-mayor of Beijing Cheng Hong announced that the city will implement a 144 hour visa free transit program by the end of 2017. Although details have yet to be released, it is likely that this policy will mirror the one rolled out by Shanghai officials earlier last year. It is projected that under this new program, foreigners from certain countries will be able to travel through Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei for up to six days without a visa. If it is anything like the Shanghai program, tourists who intend to enter China as a layover to a third country will gain access to roam these specified regions. For several years, Beijing has already offered a similar 72 hour program granting limited visa free access to the country.
Alternatively, some sources speculate financial motivations for this program and attribute its creation to Beijing’s ongoing efforts to promote the Jing-Jin-Ji megalopolis and the country’s economic shift towards greater consumption. This visa free transit program would encourage economic growth by allowing investors and others traveling to Beijing on business easier access to the country. As it stands, business travelers who intend to stay in Beijing are discouraged by a bevy of registration protocols and restrictions.
Whether Beijing intends to implement this program to support its tourism industry or ease the requirements for international business travelers will not be clear until Beijing releases the details of the program. Updates forthcoming.