Monday 18 March 2013

72 Hour Free Transit in Beijing and Shanghai

From January 1st 2013, the Chinese government has introduced a new policy that allows for tourists to transit in China for up to 72 hours without a Chinese visa. This policy was introduced in the hopes of increasing tourism into China and increasing business for not only the tourist industries in China, but also tourism industries in other countries.

With this policy, there are many rules which must be followed in order to use this service. Below, I will explain what criteria must be met in order to use this service and certain rules surrounding the policy.

Who is applicable?

In order to use the 72 hour transit without visa policy, the traveller must be a citizen of one of the 45 countries that China has allowed to use this service. These 45 countries are based on the highest tourist markets to China in 2011. For a full list of the countries please click here. 

What documents are needed?

In order to use this service you need to have already booked flight tickets and visas (if applicable) for a 3rd country. As this is a transit policy, the whole idea is that you will be travelling to a 3rd country, after you have spent up to 72 hours in China.  
e.g. Start in the UK (1st Country), travel to China (2nd Country) for up to 72 hours and then fly on to Japan (3rd Country). Before you have left the UK, you must have already purchased the documentation for the 3rd country (i.e. Japan)

Where can you travel to in China?

Currently, this policy only applies to 3 airports. These include:
1) Beijing Capital International Airport
2) Shanghai Pudong Airport
3) Shanghai Hongqiao Airport
These are the only airports you can travel into that allows you to use the 72 hour transit without visa policy. There are discussions currently about plans to expand into Guangzhou and Chengdu.

How to Apply?

When you check in at the airport of your 1st country (e.g. London Heathrow), you should inform your airline that you will be wishing to use the 72 transit without visa policy whilst you are in China. The airline will check that all of your information is in order. The airline will then present a list of people on their flight who are using the service to the Chinese border agency 边检. When you are going through customs at the airport, the Chinese border agency will have your name listed; they will check your documents (including whether you have 3rd country documentation i.e. flights/ visas) and then they will stamp your passport. When you have received a stamp, your 72 hour transit period will begin. When you leave China, you will receive a second stamp indicating that your transit period has been annulled. 

What is meant by a 3rd country?

o A 3rd country is a country you will go to after being in transit in China.
o The 3rd country flights and visas (if applicable) must be present before you travel to China
o The 3rd country cannot be the same country as the 1st country (e.g. London – Beijing – London). The 3rd country must be different.
o Hong Kong and Macau are being treated as 3rd countries in this policy, separate from Mainland China.


o This policy only applies to Beijing and Shanghai
o Once in these cities, you cannot leave the city proper.
o You cannot enter from Beijing and depart from Shanghai (or vice versa)
o You can only enter from the airports (Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao Airport). You cannot enter by train, car, boat or other forms of transport.

Can you extend the policy?

o In no circumstance can you extend the 72 hour transit without visa policy.
o If you wish to extend your time in China or are forced to stay in China due to unforeseeable reasons, you will need to apply for a full visa at the Ministry of Public Security
o If you wish to leave the city borders, you need to apply for a full visa also

Advantages of the 72 hour transit without visa policy

Hassle free before departure. No need to buy and apply for a visa.
Allows for flexibility in Beijing and Shanghai. Brings simplicity to quick business meetings or fleeting tours of Beijing or Shanghai
Will help increase tourism in China and promote China as a holiday destination Furthermore, will bring further business to tourist companies from countries that enjoy this service.

For more information about Chinese Visas policy please email or call us on 020 7487299. For more information about travelling to China please check our website at 

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