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Beijing 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit FAQ

Ordinarily most visitors to the Republic of China require a visa, however there is a useful little thing called a “72 hour visa-free transit” which applies to some travelers under some circumstances. Here are a few useful answers to frequently asked questions about the visa-free transit in China.

72-Hour Transit Visa-2

Who can get a Visa-Free Transit?
Travelers from 51 countries are eligible for the visa-free transit. The traveler must be coming from country A, going through China (country B) on route to another destination (country or region C) with a booked connecting flight outward bound from China.

What are the requirements for obtaining a visa-free 72 hour transit exemption?
There are three requirements:

  • • You must be a citizen from one of the 51 countries included in the program.
  • You must be a foreign national with valid international traveling documents including a passport and air ticket for connecting flight with confirmed flight date and seat on a flight to a third country leaving within 72 hours.
  • You must be arriving in transit at one of the participating 18 Chinese cities on route to a third country and leaving from the same point of entry.

What documents are required?
You will need:

  • A valid passport.
  • Visa for your final destination (the third country reached on your outbound flight from China).
  • An Arrival/Departure Card filed out with all your details.
  • A confirmed outbound air ticket with confirmed seat leaving from the same point where you arrived in China.

Can you fly from country A to China and back to country A within 72 hours?
No. Your confirmed outbound air ticket must be to a “third” country or region, not your country of origin. When they refer to a “third” country they mean that your country of origin is country 1; your stop in China is country 2 and you must be flying on to country 3. For example someone flying from NYC, USA stopping in China for 72 hours and continuing on to LA, USA would not be eligible for the 72 hour free-visa program.

What are the 51 countries included in the 72 hour visa-free program?

  • 24 Schengen region European countries: Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Denmark, France, Finland, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Slovakia. (Recently Monaco and Belarus may have been added, please confirm before booking your flight).
  • 13 additional European countries: United Kingdom, Russia, Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania.
  • 6 countries on the American continents: USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.
  • 2 Oceanian countries: New Zealand and Australia.
  • 6 countries from the Asian continent: South Korea, Singapore, Japan, UAE, Qatar and Brunei.

Where do you apply for a visa-free permit?
Passengers should inform the airline when they check-in for their flight to China that they intend to make a 72 hour stopover. On arrival in China all passengers go through immigration and there is a special Chinese Immigration Inspection Authority counter for 72 hour visa-free applications. The authorities will then stamp your passport with the 72 visa-free authorization “on the spot” to passengers who meet all the requirements. The procedure includes: filling in your Arrival/Departure Card while on the flight to China – applying for the visa-free 72 hour transit at the immigration counter – claiming your luggage – going through customs – leaving the airport in China and returning to the same airport within 72 hours for your outbound flight. Passengers transiting through Beijing airport can apply for the visa-free program after arriving in Beijing.

What if I don’t have an outgoing air ticket booked to leave China for a third country?
The exit air ticket must have already been purchased before you land in China. You cannot arrive in China, apply for a 72 visa-free transit and then buy your outgoing ticket. You must have a confirmed connecting flight booked to leave China within 72 hours of your arrival in China.

Which airports are included in the 72 hour visa-free transit program?
There are 18 Chinese cities where the 72 hour visa-free program operates including Shanghai, Beijing Capital International Airport, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shenyang, Harbin, Dalian, Guilin, Xian, Kunming, Xiamen, Wuhan, Tianjin, Qingdao, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Changsha.

Where can you go in China during the 72 hours of your transit?
During your 72 hours of visa-free time in China you may only travel within a certain area. Note that some visa-free transit programs allow travel within a municipal area and others allow travel within a province.

The ports of entry where you can travel and stay within the entire province on a visa-free transit include Guangzhou Province, Chengdu Province, Qingdao Province, and Changsha Province.

If arriving in Shanghai, Jiangsu or Zhejiang you can travel within these three places.

If transiting in Shenyang or Dalian you can travel within both these cities.

If arriving in Xian you can travel within Xianyang and Xian.

If transiting in Beijing Capital International Airport, Chongqing Airport, Harbin, Guilin Airport, Kunming, Wuhan Airport, Xiamen or Tianjin Airport you can must stay within the administrative area of the city.

What if I need to go outside of the Beijing or Shanghai municipal administrative precincts or outside of the precincts of Guangzhou Province?
In this case you will need to apply to the exit-entry administration department of the municipal public security authorities for a visa.

So if I arrived in Beijing Capital International Airport would I be able to visit the Great Wall of China on the visa-free transit?
Yes, the Great Wall of China is within the administrative precincts of Beijing.

How is the Seventy-two hours calculated?
The visa time is counted from midnight (00:00) of the day after your entry into China. So if you arrive in China at 8:00am on September 2nd your visa would expire at 23:59 of September 5th. This means that sometimes the visa time is longer than the official seventy-two hours. This rule applies to all of the participating entrance points except for Beijing where the 72 hours is calculated from your arrival time to the departure time of your outbound flight. Always leave yourself plenty of time to return to the airport.

What if your transit is longer than 72 hours?
If for some unexpected reason your stop in China is prolonged for more than 72 hours you should immediately apply for the relevant visa at the exit-entry administration department of the city’s PSB (public security authority). If you overstay your 72 hours granted by the free-visa program then you will be in China illegally and be subject to legal action by the Chinese entry-exit administration department of the Public Security Authorities or border control station in the area where you are found. If you have broken the restrictions of your visa-free transit then you will most likely be denied any further applications for this type of visa in the future.

Can you arrive in one of the airports and fly out of China from one of the other airports included in the program?
No, as this would require leaving the city where the visa-free transit stopover was granted. If you have been granted a 72 hour visa-free entry for Capital Airport Beijing then you must leave from that same airport within 72 hours and you may not leave from any other airport. This rule applies to all airports with the exception of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang where you can depart from any of the Shanghai airports plus Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport and Nanjing Lukou Airport.

What about arriving by train and leaving within Seventy-two hours by air?
No, at the moment this form of visa is only available when arriving and leaving by air from the authorized 18 Chinese cities with the exception of Shanghai (see below).

Are there any exceptions to the exit/entry point rule?
The only exception is for Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiansu where you can enter and exit from any air, rail or sea port in Shanghai plus Hangzhou Xiashan Airport in Zhejiang and Nanjing Lukou Airport in Jiangsu. These are the only places where your exit and entry points do not have to be the same but they have to be within Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

I heard about a 144 hour transit visa?
If transiting through Shanghai, Zhejiang or Jiangsu you can get a 144 hour visa-free program. There are plans to expand this program to other cities in 2017 starting with Guangdong Province. Citizens from the same 51 countries may receive a 144 visa-free transit as well as citizens of Belarus and Monaco.
I heard about a 48 hour transit visa for Shanghai?
The 48 hour transit visa for Shanghai is no longer available and was replaced by the 72 hour visa-free program.

So what is the 24 hour “direct transit”?
If you have a stopover of less than 24 hours and are not going to leave the airport then you are exempt from having a visa. Remember you must stay within the airport without passing through border control and you must have a confirmed booking for an outbound international flight leaving in less than 24 hours. All travelers can take advantage of the direct transit, not only passengers from the 51 countries mentioned above.

What if I arrive in China via another Chinese city?
If you are transiting from Xian but arriving via Beijing then you are not eligible for the 72 hour visa-free program. For example if you fly Australia-Beijing-Xian-Singapore you will not be eligible for the visa-free stamp in your passport. No stopovers within mainland China are allowed with the 72 hour visa-free program.

I heard about a 15 day visa-free policy?
If arriving in China on a cruise which docks in Shanghai and you are leaving on the same cruise you can get a 15 day visa-free permit provided you are received by a travel agency and traveling with a tour group. With this visa you can tour the coastal areas with your tour operator.

What about Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan?
For transit visa purposes Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau are regarded as a third region so that if for example you fly UK-Beijing-Macau/Hong Kong/Taiwan you can receive a visa-free transit in Beijing.

What are customs regulations when you are on a 72 hour visa-free transit program?
As with all visitors to China all required items (tobacco, alcohol and 20 other commodities) must be declared at customs. In addition as a 72 hour visa-free tourist you must comply with the General Administration of Customs policies regarding transit passengers’ baggage inspections.

Where can I get more information?
Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have or you could contact the border control authorities of the airport where you propose arriving. You could also inquire at the Ministry of Public Security website or the General Station of Immigration Inspection at your entrance point to China.