Home China Visa Visa-Free Policy 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit

How to Transit Through China for 72 Hours Without a Visa

72 hour visa-free transit through China

If your layover in China is less than 72 hours, you can consider applying for 72-hour visa-free transit as long as you meet the criteria. It is possible for you to enjoy a city tour without a visa.

(Alternatively, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei have had a 144-hour (6-day) visa-free transit policy for passengers from 53 countries or regions since 2016.)

What the Conditions Are

72-hour visa-free transit

For 72-hour TWOV (Transit Without Visa):

  • You must be in transit to a third country or region, meaning you cannot return to the country you just came from, or travel to another Mainland China city. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are treated as separate regions.

    For example, a USA – Shanghai – Hong Kong trip is eligible, but a USA – Shanghai – USA trip or a USA – Shanghai – Beijing – Hong Kong trip is not.
  • You must hold onward air tickets departing within the allowed time.
  • You must enter and leave from an eligible airport. In Shanghai, you can arrive/depart from Pudong or Hongqiao airport.
  • You must not leave the city area (prefecture or municipality) during the 72 hours, except for Guangzhou, from which you are allowed to travel anywhere in Guangdong Province.
  • You must be a passport holder of one of the 53 countries listed below. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months from the date of intended arrival.

If you find you aren’t eligible for the visa-free transit, you need to apply for a visa.

Eligible Passport Holders

Those using passports of the following countries are eligible for the 72-hour visa exemption program:

Americans from 6 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, the United States

Europeans from 39 countries: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom

Oceanians from 2 countries: Australia, New Zealand

Asians from 6 countries: Brunei, Qatar, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates

The Ports of Entry That Are Involved

It’s possible to enjoy the 72-hour visa-free policy if transiting through the following 18 cities (from January 1st, 2018): 

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guilin, Xi'an, Kunming, Hangzhou, Xiamen, Wuhan, Tianjin, Harbin, Nanjing, Shenyang, Dalian, Qingdao, and Changsha.

(Now, as an alternative, Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Dalian, Tianjin, Shenyang, and Nanjing also offer a 144-hour visa-free transit policy.)

72-hour Visa-free cities

The Required Documents

  • A valid passport
  • An onward air ticket with a confirmed seat
  • Completed Arrival Card and Departure Card
  • Visa for a third country or region if needed
72-hour visa-free transit

72-Hour Transit in 5 Steps

1). When you are checking in, inform the airline(s) of your intention to TWOV and collect your onward ticket.

2). Fill in arrival and departure cards (available on flights).

3). On arrival, find the dedicated counter to apply for 72-hour TWOV. (If successful, your passport will be stamped with a 72-hour visa-free permit stamp showing the date you arrive and when you must leave by.)

4). Claim your luggage, go through customs, and exit the airport as normal.

5). Leave on your planned flight (or apply for a visa to stay longer).

How the 72 Hours Are Calculated

Generally speaking, the 72-hour limit is calculated starting from 00:00 on the day after arrival (or 24:00 on the arrival date), except at Beijing Capital International Airport, where the 72 hours starts from the scheduled arrival time of the flight.

For example, if you enter Shanghai at 06:00 on April 1st; your stay starts from 00:00 on April 2nd, and you can stay until 23:59 on April 4th. (So, you could have more than 72 hours visa-free with suitable flights.)

[Please note that some airports have their own special regulations about how they count these hours: from airplane touchdown, or from midnight, or from when they issue the visa-free travel permit in the airport. So find out in advance about the specific airport regulations. ]

Those who don’t depart within the time limit, for whatever reason, should apply for a visa at the local Public Security Bureau Exit-Entry Administration Office. To avoid this situation in the case of delays, don’t book the onward flight too close to the time limit.

Differences Between 24, 72, and 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit

There are three types of transit without a visa (TWOV) programs in mainland China: 24-hour TWOV, 72-hour TWOV, and 144-hour TWOV.

24-Hour TWOV 72-Hour TWOV 144-Hour TWOV
Nationalities Covered Nearly all nationalities 53 nationalities 53 nationalities
Ports of Entry Most Chinese cities 18 cities Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Qinhuangdao, Dalian, Shenyang
Arrival and Departure Can be by different ports. Must be by the same port Can be by different ports.
Means of Transport Plane, ship, or train By air Plane, ship, or train
Travel in Mainland China Limited to the transit area Limited to a city area Limited to a region

[The above information was updated on January 31st, 2018. The situation changes on a daily basis. Please double-check when you plan your tour.]

We Can Maximize Your (Visa-Free) Stay in China

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