TRANSIT VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR A LAYOVER IN CHINA

If you'll be stopping over in China on your way to another country, why not obtain a transit visa on the spot and see one of the most historic places known to man? Transit visas are for foreigners who will be staying in a country for a short period of time while in transit between two other countries. It's a great option for those who to want see and experience a little bit of China in a short amount of time!

Transit Visa Requirements for a Layover in China

There are two options for transit visas in China. The first, Direct Transit, requires less documentation and is valid for those who will be stopping in China for under 24 hours. If you will be staying longer than 24 hours, you will have to follow the requirements to obtain the 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit. There are special counters for these transit visas, so make sure you line up in the correct lane. There are many signs to point you in the right direction.

Direct Transit (within 24 hours)

If you are traveling through China with a layover under 24 hours (like I did) and you hold a valid ticket going on to a third country, you should be eligible for the 24-Hour Visa-Free Transit. On arrival to the airport, search for the immigration counter with a sign indicating "24 Hour Direct Transit" and show proof of your flights here. At the immigration counter, they will stamp your passport indicating you are only permitted to stay until the following day. This worked out perfectly for us, since we didn't have to claim our baggage and lug it around China (it was checked all the way through to San Francisco -- lucky us!).

REQUIREMENTS

  • You must be traveling on a valid passport and can be of any nationality. Different from the 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit, you can be of any nationality. 
  • You can be transiting via flight, ship or train. Unlike the 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit, you are able to utilize other modes of travel.
  • You must be in transit to a THIRD country. This means you cannot fly from the United States to Beijing and back to the United States. You must be flying to a third (and different) country. For example, I flew from Thailand to Beijing and then to the United States.
  • You can transfer to another port or city during the 24 hour period. For example, if your itinerary is San Francisco – Beijing – Shanghai – Bangkok and the total time in China is less than 24 hours, you are still eligible for the 24 Hour Direct Transit.
  • You must have a confirmed flight ticket and appropriate documentation going onward to your third country. You will have to show proof of your flight ticket and any necessary visa requirements going onward to your third country.
  • You must fully complete a travel arrival/departure card. You can find these on your way to the immigration counter.

72-Hour Visa-Free Transit Requirements

Once you arrive to the airport, look for signs with arrows pointing to the "72-Hour Visa-Free Transit" immigration counter and show proof of documentation here. This transit visa has a few additional requirements and guidelines, so pay close attention to the details!

REQUIREMENTS

  • You must be traveling on a valid passport from one of the following 51 countries:

Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States

  • You must be transiting via one of the following airports:

Beijing Capital Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, and airports of Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Harbin, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Tianjin, Qingdao, Nanjing, Changsha, and Xiamen

  • You must be in transit to a THIRD country. This means you cannot fly from the United States to Beijing and back to the United States. You must be flying to a third (and different) country. For example, I flew from Thailand to Beijing and then to the United States.
  • Your flight must only stop in one Chinese city. This means you must arrive and depart from the same airport. A flight from Thailand to Xian to Beijing would not qualify for the transit visa.
  • You must have a confirmed flight ticket and appropriate documentation going onward to your third country. You will have to show proof of your flight ticket and any necessary visa requirements going onward to your third country.
  • You must fully complete a travel arrival/departure card. You can find these on your way to the immigration counter.
  • You are required to register with the local police station within 24 hours of arrival. If you are staying at a hotel, they will notify them on your behalf. However, if you are staying with friends / family, you are "required" to do so in person at a local police station. I'm not sure what 

Regardless of which transit visa you are issued, after you have provided the appropriate documentation, the immigration officer will stamp your passport indicating your allowed length of stay and you can be on your way to enjoy the city! Once you've obtained your transit visa, what should you do? Check out Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City or The Great Wall of China!

Transit Visa Requirements for a Layover in China - The Great Wall of China
Transit Visa Requirements for a Layover in China - The Forbidden City
Transit Visa Requirements for a Layover in China - The Great Wall of China

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Transit Visa Requirements for a Layover in China