China is infamously known for requiring foreigners to apply for a travel visa before visiting the country. The process takes usually two-three weeks and requires some personal information and a trip itinerary. However, China’s customs policies have become more relaxed in the recent years as the country now allows travelers without visas to enter under certain circumstances. The exceptions are as follows.
1. 24-Hour Direct Transit
No visa is required for a foreign citizen who is transiting through China via air or ship provided he or she will not leave the airport or boat port. The duration of their stay must be under 24 hours, and they must have a ticket with a confirmed seat for their connecting flight or cruise. This policy is applicable to almost all nationalities and almost all airports. In the case a traveler wishes to leave the port city for sightseeing, they can apply for a Temporary Stay Permit upon arrival provided they will not be in China for more than 24 hours.
2. 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit
Travelers who are citizens of the following countries entering China through the following airports may stay without a visa for a total of 72 hours. They must fly in and out of China. Upon arrival at the airport, travelers will need to apply for visa-free travel at a special terminal within the immigration and customs area. They must still have a ticket with a confirmed seat for their travel out of China.
List of 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, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Belarus, Monaco, United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar
List of airports: Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport, Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, Guilin Liangjiang Airport, Kunming Changshui International Airport, Xi’an Xianyang International Airport, Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, Harbin Taiping International Airport, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, and Tianjin Binhai International Airport
Difference between direct transit and 72-hour visa-free:
3. 144-Hour Visa-Free Travel
Passengers from the above countries transiting in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong can enjoy a visa-free stay up to 144 hours.
4. 15-Day Visa-Free for Cruise Tour Groups to Shanghai
Foreigners who take a cruise to Shanghai and leave with the cruise from Shanghai can enjoy a 15-day visa-free stay in China given that they are received by a local travel agency as a tour group. The group should contain at least two members. Eligible passengers can travel with the ship to other coastal cities and provinces, including Beijing, Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan.
5. Nationals of Singapore, Brunei and Japan
Ordinary passport holders of Singapore, Brunei and Japan are allowed to enter China without visas for up to 15 days for tourism, visiting family or friends, or minor business purposes provided they enter through international ports open to foreigners. If a national from one of these three countries meets any of the following criteria, he or she will still need to apply for a visa:
A. An ordinary passport holder visits China for tourism, business, or meeting with friends or relatives, and stays for more than 15 days.
B. An ordinary passport holder visits China for the purpose of study, work, permanent residency, official visits or news coverage.
C. A Japanese citizen travels with a diplomatic or official passport.
1. It is necessary to inform the airline at check-in, so that they can declare your request to the airport custom before landing.
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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
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