China’s 72- and 144-Hour Transit without Visa Programs

china-visa-waiverChina’s transit without visa (TWOV) programs allow a traveler arriving at certain ports of entry to be admitted to China and stay within a specified geographic area for 72 or 144 hours visa-free before continuing their journey to a third country (or region).

Designated Ports of Entry

The transit without visa programs are only in effect at ports of entry designated by the State Council.

Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang Policy: 144 Hours

  • Designated ports: Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) and Hongqiao Airport (SHA), Shanghai sea ports (i.e, Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, Wusong Passenger Transport Center), Shanghai rail ports; Nanjing Lukou Airport (NKG); Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport (HGH).
  • Specified geographic area: Shanghai Municipality, Jiangsu Province, and Zhejiang Province
  • Effective date: Jan. 30, 2016

Other Cities: 72 Hours

At other cities besides Shanghai/Jiangsu/Zhejiang, the only designated ports of entry are specified international airports:

Designated international airport Airport Code Specified geographic area Effective date 
Beijing PEK Beijing municipality Jan. 2013
Changsha CSX Hunan province Jan. 1, 2016
Chengdu CTU Chengdu municipality Sept. 2013
Chongqing CKG Chongqing municipality Nov. 2013
Dalian DLC Dalian municipality Jan. 1, 2014
Guangzhou CAN Guangdong province Aug. 2013
Guilin KWL Guilin municipality July 28, 2014
Kunming KMG Kunming municipality Oct. 1, 2014
Shenyang SHE Shenyang municipality Jan. 1, 2014
Tianjin TSN Tianjin municipality June 8, 2015
Wuhan WUH Wuhan municipality May 1, 2015
Xiamen XMN Fujian province Apr. 1, 2015
Xian XIY Xian municipality June 1, 2014

See also the city list on Timatic (links below).

Requirements

1. Passport (or other international travel document) must be issued by a listed country:

  • Europe–Schengen countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • Europe–Other countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Great Britain, Ireland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine.
  • Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and United States.
  • Oceania: Australia and New Zealand.
  • Asia: Brunei, Japan, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, and United Arab Emirates.

2. Traveler must be arriving at a designated port of entry to China.

3. Traveler must have a ticket proving onward travel to a “third country or region”  (not the originating country and not in Mainland China) with a confirmed date and seat within the time limit. The arriving and departing tickets may be on different airlines. For the 72-hour program, the onward flight must leave from the same city where you arrived. For the 144-hour program, the onward transportation may be from any of the designated ports in Shanghai, Nanjing Lukou Airport, or Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport. If required, you must also possess a visa for the third country or region.

  • The term “region” here is a term of art which refers to disputed states (e.g., Taiwan) and subnational entities (e.g., Hong Kong and Macau). So, for example, New York -> Beijing -> Hong Kong would qualify. (But note that New York -> Beijing -> Guam does not qualify, per Timatic).
  • Note that the third country or region must not be the originating country. For example, New York -> Beijing -> New York does not qualify, but New York -> Beijing -> Tokyo -> New York does qualify.
  • Duration of stop in third country is irrelevant (e.g., LAX ->PVG -> NRT -> LAX is OK, even if NRT stop is for only a few hours).
  • Your departing transportation must not make a further stop in China, even if you are not required to change planes. For example, Beijing -> Kunming -> Hanoi doesn’t qualify.

4. That onward flight must be scheduled to depart within the time limit. How are the 72 or 144 hours counted? Per Timatic:

    • PEK, KWL, HRB, KMG, and SHE count the 72 hours between scheduled arrival and scheduled departure.
    • Other cities count the 72 hours starting from 0:01 on the day following entry (when the visa waiver is granted).

5. You must not depart the specified geographic area for which the visa waiver is approved. (See above).

How to Request Entry Under the Transit without Visa Programs

Upon arrival, request entry under the TWOV program from the immigration inspector in the airport or other port. In some ports, there are special immigration inspection lanes for the program.

72-hour transit visa waiver stamp
Temporary Entry Permit: stamped into a passport to show admission under the 72-hour transit visa waiver program. Source

Extending One’s Stay or Leaving the Specified Geographic Area

The traveler may apply to the local pubic security bureau (PSB) exit-entry administration department for an extension or to leave the specified geographic area.

Tips

When you are checking in and boarding your plane at a foreign airport, the airlines personnel routinely check passengers visas. They may be unfamiliar with the transit visa waiver program. Bring a printout from Timatic to show you qualify for the waiver.

Upon arrival in China, make sure you have available to show immigration authorities a printed itinerary for your departing flight or other transportation showing it has already been ticketed.

What’s the Policy Behind the TWOV Program?

A transit visa allows its holder to pass through a country en route to a final destination outside its borders. Some countries require transit visas even for passengers that will catch a connecting flight without exiting the airport through passport control. For example, the U.S., UK, and France all require transit visas and also may waive the visa requirement in certain situations.

China’s State Council has authorized the TWOV program at selected ports as a way to promote international travel through its ports and give a boost to local industries serving travelers for business and pleasure. Think of a transit visa waiver as a modern analogy to the oasis that allowed Turpan to become a commercial hub on the silk road, or the free bathroom that attracts travelers to fast food restaurants along the highway.

References

Timatic via KLMFlyerTalk, or Skyteam.

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has issued Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning 72-Hour Transit Visa Exemption for Foreign Nationals.

MPS has also issued an announcement about the 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit Policy for Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang.

Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection, Interpretation of 144-hour Visa-exemption Transit Policy

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What do you think? Feel free to add your questions or describe your experiences in the “comments” area below.

44 Replies to “China’s 72- and 144-Hour Transit without Visa Programs”

  1. For purposes of the visa waiver, can my flight originate or depart to Hong Kong? In other words, is Hong Kong considered a “third country or region”?

    Thank you a lot!
    Kimi

          1. Can you fly out of Hong Kong into Beijing and then back into Macau or Taiwan and qualify for the 72 hr visa waiver?

  2. Hi,
    I’m flying from Phuket to Shanghai, then within the 72h i have a flight for Paris but i make a stop in Doha between Shanghai and Paris, so it’s not really a third country but 4 countries, is it still working ?
    Thank you

    1. Yes. The term “third country or region” here means that you are departing for a country or region that (a) is not in Mainland China and (b) is not the same country or region from where your flight to Mainland China originated.

  3. Dear Sir
    Is there a definition of the term “Region” in the context of the 72 hour Transit Visa Waiver? For example, are both Oslo and Copenhagen in the “Scandinavia” region?

    1. No. When China uses the phrase “countries and regions,” the word region refers to Taiwan (not recognized as a country) as well as Hong Kong and Macau, which are subnational entities of the PRC which have separate visa regimes.

      1. Dear Sir,
        Thank you for the very concise, helpful and timely reply.
        Yours sincerely,
        G. Weisskopf

  4. Dear Sir,

    I heared, that Dalian is now also one of the designated airports for the 72-visa waiver program.
    Is this correct?
    With kind regards
    W. Seidel

  5. My understanding is that the 72 hour period is calculated based on the “scheduled arrival and departure” times of the flight and not when the waiver is granted. This is what I was told when calling the Immigration office at the Beijing airport.
    This also makes total sense. How can the airline know when you will be given your stamp while you are checking in for your flight? Hanging around the airport before passing immigration is not a valid strategy.
    Also note that in the case of Guangzhou, the 72 hour period starts at midnight on the next day giving you potentially up to 95h59min.

  6. Hi Gary,

    My question is: Are there any restrictions on the number of times within a certain time period that one can apply and/or reapply for a 72 hour Visa?

    For example: I planned 6 days for my China leg of my trip arrive Shanghai depart Beijing. This requires a Visa that I do not have time to process before I arrive. Therefore I was planning to arrive in Shanghai, apply for the 72 hour visa and spend 2 days there, then fly to Taipei, Taiwan for a day then head to Beijing for the remainder of my time up to 3 days and again apply for the 72 hour visa.

    Regards.

    1. Frank,

      There’s no specific limits on the number of times you may enter China. Still, each time, the immigration inspector may ask you questions to confirm you are likely to comply with the terms of your stay (e.g., you haven’t take a job in China).

  7. Hi!
    I’m an American living in Taiwan. I need to attend an expo in Shanghai. If I book a flight from Taipei to Shanghai with a transfer flight in Hong Kong, would this qualify for the 72-hour visa waiver?

    Thank you, David

    1. No. You have to have a flight booked to depart mainland China within 72 hours of arrival. For example, you could fly Taipei to Shanghai, then within 72 hours fly to Hong Kong.

  8. I am pleased to see that Nanjing now qualifies for the 72 hour visa-free transit. However, the Timatic website does not include it. Is that likely to cause a problem when boarding (e.g. Seoul to Nanjing, then on to Singapore). Thanks

    1. Good catch. There are new stories of the State Council approving of Nanjing for participation in the 72-hour waiver program, one of which is linked above. The airport’s website also confirms this. But neither Timatic nor the airport website show actual implementation of the program. What does your airlines say?

      1. Hi Gary, Thanks very much for your reply. I rang China Eastern, but they did not know. Many thanks, John

        1. Hi Gary,
          Your latest information proved correct, allowing me to fly in to Shanghai and out of Nanjing 3 days later. Flying on Spring Airlines (who would rarely have any transit passengers) from Ibaraki to Shanghai even worked – the check-in people went away for 30 minutes to study the rules and came back satisfied (showing a printout of your page probably helped). Arriving in Shanghai, a small hold-up while I had to log in to my email to find the hotel name for the TWOV people. Many thanks, John

  9. Gary,

    Excellent info here. Even the folks at the Bejing Embassy are convineced I need a $250 visa just for my 3 day stay in SHanghai. I clled the airline (MU) and they confirmed this is the policy. However just to be safe you suggested to print out a letter for the link for “Bring a printout from Titamic to show you qualify for the waiver” , but it seems to be broken. Keep up the great work!

  10. Hi Mr. Chodorow,

    I’m currently a U.S. Citizen and of Tibetan origin, I plan to accompany my fiancé, who is a Chinese citizen, to the U.S. embassy for her K1 visa.
    Would my place of birth be a problem even though I meet all of the requirements for the 72 hour visa.
    Many thanks & God bless,
    Tenzing.

    1. Tenzing:

      Further details would be helpful for me to understand your question.

      1. You mention that you are “currently” a U.S. citizen. If you were a PRC national and then naturalized as a U.S. citizen, then you automatically lost your PRC citizenship. The PRC government may be aware of this if you subsequently applied for a PRC visa and turned in your PRC passport for cancellation. And you may have cancelled your hukou. Is all of this true in your case?

      2. The 72-hour visa waiver program is for persons transiting through China on their way from Country A to Country B. Is this your plan?

      3. You mention that your fiancée is a applying for a K-1 visa at the U.S. “Embassy” in China. The Embassy is located in Beijing. But the only post that issues K-1 visas in China is the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou. Do you plan to transit through Guangzhou?

  11. Hello, we are travelling to China for the first time this year. We are flying into Beijing, spending three nights there. Flying down to Shanghai, where we take a cruise around Japan for 10 days & then arrive back into Shanghai where we will spend two days.
    Would we be eligible for the 72 hour visa free transit in Beijing & Shanghai ?
    It’s all very confusing.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Caron: No. You wouldn’t be allowed to enter Beijing with the visa waiver because you don’t fit within the rule: Traveler must have a ticket proving an onward flight from the same China city to a “third country or region” (not the originating country and not in Mainland China) with a confirmed date and seat within 72 hours of arrival.

  12. Hi Gary,

    For the Guangzhou 72-hour TWOV program, do I have to travel by air, or I can use the ferry?

    Thanks
    Andy

    1. Andy: For the 72-hour TWOV program, you can only enter and exit through the same designated international airport. For the 144-hour TWOV program in Shanghai/Zhejiang/Jiangsu, you have more options, as explained above.

  13. Hi,
    Does the 144-hour TWOV program apply when I have a ticket from Hong Kong to Shanghai with one airline, and another ticket from from Shanghai to Macau on a different airline?

    Thanks in advance

    Armando

  14. Dear Gary:

    My wife and I are traveling from Amsterdam > Singapore > Kuala Lumpur > Hanoi > Shanghai > Istanbul > Amsterdam. Can we use the 144-hour visa free transit in Shanghai, even though our trip begins and ends in Amsterdam?

Comments are closed.