China has resumed the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, which allows people from certain countries to enjoy six days of travel to select areas of the country without applying for a visa beforehand. With the policy finally reinstated after three years of COVID-19 restrictions, we explain who is eligible for the visa-free transit and where in China you can travel on this special entry permit.
Chinese embassies and consulates in multiple countries issued statements that from March 15 onward, China would resume all types of visas for foreigners, including the visa for tourism and medical treatment, port visa, and multiple visa-exemption policies.
Meanwhile, valid multi-year multi-entry visas that were issued before March 28, 2020, by overseas Chinese visa authorities shall resume function, meaning that foreigners that already have this type of long-term visa (such as the 10-year business or tourist visa) can now enter China without additional visa application – provided it is still within the validity period.
It is important to note that, in order to be eligible for visa-free transit, you 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 to the country.
Upon the removal of one of the last travel restrictions imposed under the previous “zero-COVID” policy, foreign travelers responded quickly, and we have received a lot of inquiries about China’s latest visa policy, especially the 144-hour visa-free transit policy that has long been welcomed by inbound travelers.
Actually, the 144-hour visa-free transit policy has gradually been resumed since January, when China downgrade COVID-19 from Class A management to Class B management. For example, Shanghai Port welcomed its first 144-hour visa-free transit passenger on January 10, 2023.
In this article, we explain how this 144-hour visa-free transit policy works and summarize some frequently asked questions.
What is the 144-hour visa-free transit policy?
The 144-hour visa-free transit is one of China’s visa exemption policies provided to eligible foreigners coming from selected countries.
Under the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, foreign travelers can enjoy a six-day stay in certain Chinese cities without a visa, provided they come from 53 eligible countries, enter and exit China from eligible ports, stay within the allowed cities and regions, as well as satisfy other requirements.
Which countries’ citizens are eligible for the 144-hour visa-free transit policy?
To obtain this visa exemption, the foreign national must have a valid passport from one of the 53 countries, which includes:
- 24 countries in the Europe Schengen area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, 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.
- Six countries in the Americas: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile.
- Two countries in Oceania: Australia and New Zealand.
- Six countries in Asia: South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
What are the requirements for the 144-hour visa-free transit policy?
As per the requirements of China’s National Immigration Authority (NIA), people applying for 144-hour visa-free transit must have:
- A valid passport or another international travel document that is valid for more than three months from the arrival date;
- An interline ticket (connecting ticket) with the confirmed departure date and seat number leaving for a third country or region within 144 hours; and
- The landing card for foreigners in transit that is filled out upon arrival in China.
You may also be required to answer some questions at immigration control upon arrival.
Which cities can you travel to during the 144-hour visa-free transit?
Despite the name, the 144-hour visa-free transit policy does not mean you can travel to any city in China. The places you can travel to depend on your exact port of entry.
First introduced to three cities in East China’s Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang area in 2016, the 144-hour visa-free transit policy has expanded to 20 cities involving 29 ports. The eligible cities, corresponding entry ports, and scope of permitted travel areas are listed in the table below.
|Scope of Travel Under 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit|
|City||Exit ports||Scope of permitted travel||Exit ports|
|Beijing||Beijing Capital International Airport Beijing West Railway Station||Beijing Municipality, Tianjin Municipality, and Hebei Province||Beijing Capital International Airport Beijing West Railway Station|
|Tianjin||Tianjin Binhai International Airport Tianjin International Cruise Home Port||Tianjin Binhai International Airport Tianjin International Cruise Home Port|
|Shijiazhuang (Hebei province)||Shenyang Taoxian International Airport||Shenyang Taoxian International Airport|
|Qinhuangdao (Hebei province)||Port of Qinhuangdao||Port of Qinhuangdao|
|Shanghai||Shanghai Pudong International Airport Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport Shanghai Train Station Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal||Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province, and Shanghai Municipality||Shanghai Pudong International Airport Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport Shanghai Train Station Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal|
|Hangzhou (Zhejiang province)||Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport||Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport|
|Ningbo (Zhejiang province)||Ningbo Lishe International Airport|
|Nanjing (Jiangsu province)||Nanjing Lukou International Airport||Nanjing Lukou International Airport|
|Shenyang (Liaoning province)||Shenyang Taoxian International Airport||Liaoning Province||Shenyang Taoxian International Airport|
|Dalian (Liaoning province)||Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport||Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport|
|Qingdao (Shandong province)||Qingdao Liuting International Airport Qingdao International Cruise Home Port||Shandong Province||Qingdao Liuting International Airport Qingdao International Cruise Home Port|
|Chengdu (Sichuan province)||Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport||11 cities in Sichuan: Chengdu, Leshan, Deyang, Suining, Meishan, Ya’an, Ziyang, Neijiang, Zigong, Luzhou, and Yibin||Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport|
|Xiamen (Fujian province)||Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport Xiamen Wutong Passenger Terminal Xiamen International Cruise Center Port||Xiamen city only||Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport Xiamen Wutong Passenger Terminal Xiamen International Cruise Center Port|
|Kunming (Yunnan province)||Kunming Changshui International Airport||Kunming city only||Kunming Changshui International Airport|
|Wuhan (Hubei province)||Wuhan Tianhe International Airport||Wuhan city only||Wuhan Tianhe International Airport|
|Guangzhou (Guangdong province)||Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport||Guangdong Province||Any of the 32 entry/exit ports in Guangdong Province (land, sea, and air)|
|Shenzhen (Guangdong province )||Shenzhen Baoan International Airport|
|Jieyang (Guangdong province)||Jieyang Chaoshan International Airport|
|Chongqing||Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport||Chongqing Municipality||Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport|
|Xi’an (Shaanxi province)||Xi’an Xianyang International Airport||Cities of Xi’an and Xiangyang in Shaanxi Province||Xi’an Xianyang International Airport|
It’s important to note that in most cases (except in Guangdong Province), you will be required to exit the country through one of the same ports that are permitted for entry. In most cases, this will be the same port as the one you arrived through.
It is therefore important to pay attention to the permitted arrival airports, railway stations, or cruise ports for both entry and exit when planning your trip, and to make sure that your itinerary during your stay in China is within the permitted areas, to ensure you do not inadvertently cross into an area where you are not permitted or exit the country illegally.
Under what circumstances can the 144-hour visa-free transit be denied?
The immigration officers at the border may refuse to issue you a temporary entry permit in any of the following circumstances:
- If you are not allowed to enter China under Chinese laws or administrative regulations;
- If your 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 you have previously illegally entered or exited China, illegally resided in China, or illegally worked in China in the last five years;
- If you have a record of violating accommodation registration regulations in the last two years, and the circumstances were considered “severe”;
- If you are 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.
Things to note before your 144-hour visa-free stay in China
You are required to abide by all Chinese laws and regulations during your stay, and you cannot leave the permitted scope of travel or exceed the permitted duration of the transit.
If you stay in a hotel during your visit, the hotel will register your stay with the local police station using your passport or another international travel document (you will not be required to go to the police station in person, the hotel will only require to take a copy of your passport when you check in). Note that 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.
If you stay in another place, such as at a friend or family member’s home, you and your host must go and register at the local public security bureau (usually a police station, but it could also be a service station for foreigners) within 24 hours of your arrival. You will need to bring your passport, as well as your host’s housing contract (proof of address) and identification card. Online channels exist in some cities such as Shanghai. In practice, many foreign travelers may simply skip this step due as it can be cumbersome, 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 an unexpected incident that means you need to stay beyond 144 hours, then you must apply to the immigration department at the local public security bureau for a corresponding stay permit.
You will be liable for punishment by the immigration authorities or border forces if you leave the permitted area, overstay the entry permit duration, leave China via an exit port other than the ones designated, or fail to register your accommodation in accordance with law
China’s 144-hour visa-free transit policy is an excellent option for short stopovers in China when traveling to a third country. With the many different ports available, you can now explore multiple areas of the country by choosing an entry port that covers the places you want to go to without having to apply for a tourist visa. (Source: china-briefing.com)
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