Updated November 20, 2018 to include additional 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit and 53 eligible countries.
Are you traveling to Asia from the US in the near future? Have you considered taking an entirely free stopover en route to your final destination in Shanghai or one of the many other cities participating in China's 72-144 hour visa waiver? The twenty first century has witnessed the rise in the economic activity within Asia and likewise the number of international business trips to the region. While traveling from the States to Bangkok or Macau was not as straight forward in the past, largely due to visa formalities, China has taken some steps in recent years to ease the process for any international travelers making a stopover in the country.
As many as eighteen Chinese cities are now offering a visa waiver for a short stopover (less than 72 hours) before flying onward. In fact, passport holders from 51 countries including the United States of America and Canada are eligible for these waiver benefits and since January 30th 2016, any passengers traveling through Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu can even stay for up to 144 hours without a visa. Naturally this visa waiver allows for passengers to visit and experience the city before returning to the airport for a connecting flight.
In order to avail the 72/144 hour free transit policy, the following documents are required:
· Valid passport from any of the 53 nations eligible for visa waiver.
· Visa for a the destination country or region that you are traveling to. (Third countries include Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau).
· Onward ticket with a confirmed seat
· Completed arrival-departure card
It is important to note that the airlines must be notified at check-in of your intent to stop over in China to avail of the free-transit application and likewise, you are required to notify the Customs officials upon arrival. At present, the cities allowing 144-hour visa waiver include Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Liaoning and include their ports and trains.
Cities allowing 72 hour visa waiver while transiting via Beijing Capital Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, and airports of Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Harbin, Xi'an, Guilin, Kunming, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Tianjin, Qingdao, Nanjing, Changsha, and Xiamen.Another stipulation of this waiver is that you must depart from the same airport in which you arrive unless you are transiting through Shanghai, Zhejiang or Jiangsu.
**If unable to depart China within the alloted hours, you must apply for a visa with the Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB).
With the 72 hour visa waiver, China has certainly facilitated passengers traveling to Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan and with more Chinese cities being added to this list and the length of the visa being increased to 144 hours in some cases, international travelers definitely have something to rejoice about.
* Consult with the China Embassy for more details and changes - http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/visas/zgqz/#2