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Citizens from 54 countries can enjoy China’s 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy

Citizens from a total of 54 countries can currently enjoy China’s 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, offered in 23 Chinese cities, covering 20 cities and 29 entry and exit ports. Norway was the latest country added to the list, according to the China National Immigration Administration (NIA). 


Last year, China reinstated the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, allowing visitors from a number of countries to travel to selected cities and areas for six days without previously applying for a visa. 


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To be eligible for visa-free transit, the visitor must be going on to a third country after leaving China. Entering China under the visa-free transit policy when not continuing travel to a third country will be considered illegal entry.

  

This represents the removal of one of the last travel restrictions imposed under the previous “zero-COVID” policy. The 144-hour visa-free transit policy was welcomed by inbound travelers from around the world.   


Actually, the 144-hour visa-free transit policy has gradually been resumed since January 2023, when China downgraded COVID-19 from Class A management to Class B management. Shanghai Port welcomed its first 144-hour visa-free transit passenger on January 10, 2023. 


The following 54 countries are eligible for China’s 72/144 visa-free transit policy:  


  • 25 countries in the Europe Schengen area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

  • 15 other countries in Europe: Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Monaco, and Belarus. 

  • 6 countries in the Americas: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. 

  • 2 countries in Oceania: Australia and New Zealand. 

  • 6 countries in Asia: South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. 


Travelers with a valid passport from one of the 54 countries can access a 72/144-hour stay in the 23 Chinese cities without a visa, provided they have a connecting ticket with the confirmed departure date and seat number leaving for a third country or region within the time limit, enter and exit China from eligible ports, and stay within the allowed cities and regions.  


In March 2023, China resumed all types of visas for foreigners, including the visa for tourism and medical treatment, port visa, and multiple visa-exemption policies.  


Valid multi-year multi-entry visas that were issued before March 28, 2020, by overseas Chinese visa authorities resumed function, meaning that foreigners that already had this type of long-term visa (such as the 10-year business or tourist visa) can now enter China without additional visa application, as long as it is still within the validity period. 


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The 144-hour visa-free transit policy is implemented 20 Chinese cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Jieyang, Shenyang, Dalian, Qingdao, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi ‘an, Xiamen, Wuhan, and Kunming, 

In most cases (except in Guangdong Province), travelers are required to exit the country through one of the same ports that are permitted for entry.  


It is important to pay attention to the permitted arrival airports, railway stations, or cruise ports for both entry and exit when planning a trip, and to make sure that the itinerary in China is within the permitted areas.  


Denial of the 144-hour visa-free transit  


Immigration officers may refuse to issue a temporary entry permit: 


  • If the person is not allowed to enter China under Chinese laws or administrative regulations;  

  • If the passport or other international travel document is expiring in less than three months, or contains a previous stamp of rejection by a Chinese visa-issuing agency;  

  • If the person has previously illegally entered or exited China, illegally resided in China, or illegally worked in China in the last five years;  

  • If the person has a record of violating accommodation registration regulations in the last two years, and the circumstances were considered “severe”; 

  • If the person is not going to a third country after leaving China as the visa-free transit policy applies only to travelers bound for a third country and therefore transiting through China. 


The 144-hour visa-free policy is not applicable to crew members of international aircraft or ships or their accompanying family members. 


Conditions for 144-hour visa-free stay  


The traveler must abide by all Chinese laws and regulations during the visit and cannot leave the permitted scope of travel or exceed the permitted duration of the transit. 


Hotels will register the traveler’s stay with the local police station using a passport or another international travel document. Due to this requirement, not all hotels are able to host foreign guests. It is therefore best to check with the hotel in advance to ensure that they can accept foreign guests. 


In case the visitor stays with friends of family, the traveler and host must go and register at the local public security bureau (police station or service station for foreigners) within 24 hours of arrival. A passport is necessary, as well as the host’s housing contract (proof of address) and identification card. 


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This can be done online in some cities such as Shanghai. In practice, many foreign travelers may simply skip this step, but this could lead to unexpected problems in some cases, such as when the foreign traveler has to deal with police officers during some formal procedures. 


In the event of needing to stay beyond 144 hours, a stay permit must be requested at the immigration department at the local public security bureau. 


Travelers who leave the authorized areas, overstay the entry permit duration, leave China via an exit port other than the ones designated, or fail to register accommodation in accordance with law will be liable for punishment by the immigration authorities or border forces. 


People interested in a short stopover in China on their way to another country can take advantage of this option. Foreigners can explore multiple regions in the country by choosing an entry port that covers the places they would like to visit without having to apply for a tourist visa. 



 

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