Pudong International Airport, Shanghai
If you have a layover in one of the Chinese airports while traveling in Asia, you may be eligible for a visa-free visit to China for up to 3 or 6 days, depending on your arrival city (see details below).
The Chinese government has released a tool that allows you to check if you qualify for the exemption by entering your nationality and city of entry.
However, please note that we cannot guarantee you will receive an exemption, as it is ultimately up to your transportation company to evaluate your eligibility and allow you to get off the transportation without a visa.
For more information on China’s entry requirements, you can refer to our guide on the Chinese visa application.
If you need a hotel for a couple of nights, we suggest checking out our guide on how to book a hotel in China.
In which Chinese cities and provinces can I get a visa exemption for a maximum of 144 hours?
1. Shanghai, Jiangsu Province, and Zhejiang Province
Transit without a visa is permitted for 144 hours only if you arrive in one of the following cities:
- Shanghai: Shanghai Pudong Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, Wusong Passenger Transport Center and all railway stations;
- Hangzhou: Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport;
- Nanjing: Nanjing Lukou International Airport.
The list of entry points may change at any time. Thus, we always suggest you confirm this information before planning your trip.
The visa exemption policy allows international travelers to move around Shanghai Municipality, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu Provinces – no matter the city where they arrived.
Moreover, from what we know, it isn’t necessary to enter and depart from the same port. For example, you could enter China at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, and leave the country via the international airport in Hangzhou. The important thing is to not leave the region of Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu.
Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province
Since the end of 2017, transit without a visa is permitted for 144 hours also if you arrive in one of the following cities:
- Beijing: Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing West Railway Station;
- Tianjin: Binhai International Airport, Tianjin International Cruise Home Port;
- Shijiazhuang (in Hebei): Zhengding International Airport;
- Qinghuangdao (in Hebei): Qinhuangdao Port.
Also, in this case, the list of entry points may change at any time. Thus, we always suggest you confirm this information before planning your trip.
The visa exemption allows international travelers to move around Beijing Municipality, Tianjin Municipality, and Hebei Province – no matter the city where they arrived.
In addition, as far as we know, you don’t have to enter and exit from the same port. For example, you could enter China via the Beijing West Railway Station, and leave the country from the international airport in Tianjin. The important thing is that you don’t leave the region of Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei Province.
Since January 1, 2018, a transit visa for a maximum of 144 hours is permitted even if you arrive at one of the following cities:
- Dalian: Taoxian International Airport;
- Shenyang: Zhoushuizi International Airport Shenyang.
International travelers who arrive in China through one of the two airports listed above can freely move around Liaoning Province, and then leave China through one of these two airports (you don’t have to arrive and depart from the same airport so long as you only use these two).
To conclude, even in this case the list of entry points could change at any time. So we always suggest that you verify the most recent information you read here on our site.
The following cities also allow free visa transit for a maximum of 144 hours:
- Chengdu (Chengdu Shuang Liu International Airport);
- Kunming (Kunming Changshui International Airport);
- Qingdao (Qingdao Liuting International Airport and seaport);
- Wuhan (Wuhan Tianhe International Airport);
- Xiamen (Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport and sea port).
Note that if you arrive in Kunming, Wuhan, or Xiamen, you can’t leave the city you’ve stopped in. Instead, if you land in Qingdao or Chengdu, then you can’t leave their respective provinces (which are, in order, Shandong and Sichuan).
Therefore, if for example you stopover in Kunming, you cannot go beyond Kunming municipality limits, while if, for example, you stopover in Qingdao, you cannot beyond Shandong Province limits.
In which Chinese cities can I get a visa exemption for a maximum 72 hours?
Beside the cities and Provinces that allow a 144 hours visa exemption, transit without a visa is permitted for a maximum of 72 hours only if you stopover in one of the following cities:
- Changsha (Changsha Huanghua International Airport);
- Chongqing (Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport);
- Guangzhou (Guangzhou Baiyu International Airport);
- Guilin (Guilin Liangjiang International Airport);
- Harbin (Harbin Taiping International Airport);
- Xi’an (Xi’an Xianyang International Airport).
Note that in cities that allow transit without a visa for a maximum of 72 hours, travelers can only arrive at and depart from the country by air; they also can’t leave the city where they landed (or the province they landed in depending on the arrival city).
Remember that if you land in Chongqing, Guilin, or Harbin, you can’t leave the city you’ve stopped in. If you land in Xi’an, you can only stay in Xi’an or go to Xinyang. Lastly, if instead, you land in Changsha or Guangzhou, then you can’t leave their respective provinces (which are, in order, Hunan and Guangdong).
In this photo you can see the blue stick that I got in my passport at Shanghai Airport, when I required the visa exemption for 4 hours
What documents must I have for an exemption?
Here are the required documents:
- Passport valid for at least three months from the date of arrival
- Visa for your destination country (if required)
- An air ticket – with a departure time within 72 hours (or 144 hours depending on the city), – for the country you’re going to (if you don’t already have your boarding pass, I suggest that you at least print the email confirmation you received from your airline;
- Yellow entrance/exit card (which you’ll be given on the plane or which you can find in the airport once you land).
- A negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure
Note that the countries of origin and destination cannot be the same. For this reason a ticket Los Angeles-Shanghai-Houston won’t allow you an exemption; you’ll need a ticket such as Los Angeles-Beijing-Tokyo or Los Angeles-Shanghai-Seoul. The final (or initial) destination can also be Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan.
From when do we start counting the 72 hours (or 144 hours)?
From the most recent information we’ve read (though we ask you to confirm this detail), the countdown of the 72 hours (or 144 hours) starts exactly at midnight of the day following the passenger’s arrival (I think you can trust the date on the stamp you receive at the border when arriving by plane – see the photo in this article).
So if, for example, you arrive on September 1st at 6 in the morning, you’ll have to start counting hours the following midnight. This means that if you have a 72-hour exemption, you can stay up until 23:59 on September 4th, while if you have a 144-hour exemption, you could stay until 23:59 on September 7th.
For more information you can call the following numbers:
Beijing General Station of Immigration Inspection: 0086-10-56095400;
Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection: 0086-2151105100;
Guangzhou General Station of Immigration Inspection: 0086-2032090088.
Nationals of what countries have the right to transit?
You may receive a right of transit only if you have a passport from one of the following countries:
24 Schengen Agreement Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
15 Other European Countries: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Belarus, Monaco.
6 American Countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile.
2 Oceania Countries: Australia, New Zealand.
6 Asian Countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar.
How do I request the visa exemption?
If you have everything required listed in this article, the procedure is rather simple:
- Contact the airline you intend to travel with so that they can advise the immigration inspection office;
- Fill out the yellow entrance/exit card (this is normally given to you on the plane, but if not you can find it in the international section of the airport as soon as you land
- Request exemption at the immigration counter (in many airports there are special lines for those requesting exemptions; if you see a sign with the writing “72 hours” or “144 hours” go to the indicated counter;
- Once through the immigration counter (they’ll attach a sticker on a page of your passport and stamp it with the entry date) get your bags and leave the airport as you normally would.
In the event that I land, for example, in Changsha, and requested an exemption, can I leave China in one of the other airports that allows exemptions (Chengdu, for example)?
No, not only do you have to leave from the airport in Changsha, but you can’t even leave the jurisdiction of Changsha!
Not even “stopovers” are allowed. For example, if your air itinerary is like this: Rome -> Changsha (72-hour stop) -> Xi’an (a half-hour stop without even getting off the plane) -> Hong Kong, then you can’t request an exemption because your itinerary includes two Chinese cities.
Obviously, there are exceptions in provinces where you can travel freely for 72 or 144 hours. For example, if your flight arrives in Shanghai, connects in Hangzhou (which is located within the same 144-hour region of Shanghai, which is the important thing), and you then leave China before the 144 hours expire, there’s no problem.
What is the 24 hour exemption?
The 24 hour visa exemption allows for transit through a Chinese city for a maximum of 24 hours (so long as the plane makes only one stop in China, and the departure and arrival countries are different, such as Canada -> China -> Australia for example).
These exemptions can be applied for in almost all Chinese airports by people of almost all nationalities, even if there are exceptions regarding smaller airports and certain nationalities (especially Asian countries considered “high risk” such as Syria, Iraq, etcetera).
If the stopover lasts more than 72 hours (or 144 hours, for the cities that allow that), can I stay in the airport’s international zone for a bit and then ask for the exemption when it is less than 72 hours (or 144 hours) until departure?
No, if the stopover lasts more than 72 hours (or 144 hours, for the cities that allow that) then you’ll probably need a visa before your departure flight. In this case, the problem is that the airline may deny you access to the departing flight if they realize that your stopover lasts more than the allowed hours and you do not possess a visa.
If I travel with my pet cat, dog, or crocodile, can I get the exemption?
No. You can however request at the airport’s Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau to keep your pet in custody during the exemption period. Note too that you also cannot cross the border with fruit or vegetables.
What should I do in the event that I land, for instance, in Changsha but, due to something unforeseen, I have to leave the city?
In this case you should apply for a visa at the Exit-Entry Administration Department of the Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) in the city you’re in.
What can I do if I’m unable to leave China within 72 hours (or 144 hours, for the cities that allow it)?
The same as above: you’ll have to apply for a visa at the Exit-Entry Administration Department of the Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) of the city you’re in.