You can apply for permission to leave the airport upon arrival at immigration control and may take advantage of a longer layover to do a little sightseeing. A special stopover permit will be stamped in your passport to allow this provided you have documentary evidence of your onward flight arrangements for inspection. There are currently no fees charged for this.
Alternatively, you will enjoy 72-hour visa free transit in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang and Dalian without a Chinese visa provided you meet the following criteria:
- Your transit is not more than 72 hours;
- YYou have confirmed plane tickets to a third country (for immigration purposes, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are not considered part of China. They have their own exit and entry protocols, including visa requirements. Flights between mainland China and any of these places are considered International and they are deemed to be different countries);
- You enter through the Beijing Capital Airport, Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, Chongqing Jiangbei Airport, Dalian Zhoushuizi Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport or Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Shenyang Taoxian Airport, Xi’an Xianyang Airport,Wuhan Tianhe Airport;
- You will leave the country by departing from the airport in the same city that you arrived in (for Shanghai you can arrive at one airport and leave from the other);
- Your inbound and outbound flights must not additionally transit through any other Chinese airports on their way to/from one of the above airports (see below examples of what is not acceptable);
- You cannot leave the city/municipality to go to another Chinese city during the 72 hours (except in Guangzhou where you are permitted to travel anywhere in the Guangdong province);
- To qualify this benefit, you must hold a passport of one of the 51 approved countries:
Twenty four European Schengen countries: Twenty four European Schengen 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, and Switzerland;
Thirteen other European countries: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), and Albania;
Six American countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile;
Two Oceania countries: Australia, and New Zealand;
Six Asian countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Passengers traveling between Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are regarded as international passengers. The 72 hours are calculated based on your flights’ scheduled arrival and departure and not when you show up at immigration in Beijing.
However, In Guangzhou, the 72-hour limit is calculated by starting with zero hour the next day of the passenger’s entry. For example, if a traveler enters China at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport on August 1, 2014, the visa exemption limit for entry is calculated by starting with 00:00 on August 2, 2014. The traveler can leave China before 23:59 on August 4, 2014.
A step by step guidance:
- Print the flight ticket for a connecting flight with confirmed date of flight and seat for a third country (region) leaving China at Beijing Capital International Airport;
- Look for a counter that say “Transit visa exemption” or something like this. Fill in the Arrival & Departure Card form distributed on the plane. If you misplaced it did not get one, there will be a bench next to the desk with these cards.
- Show your ticket and passport. They will stamp your passport (different stamp than if you have a regular visa).
- You then pick up your luggage and leave the airport and enjoy your stay in Beijing in the next 72 hours.
Call the 24-hour inquiry hotline:
- Beijing General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection: +86 10 5609 5400;
- Shanghai General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection: +86 21 5110 5100;
- Guangzhou General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection: +86 20 3209 0000;
- Chengdu General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection: +86 28 8602 2116
What if you do not meet the criteria above for 72hr visa-free transit?
If your stay exceeds 72 hours you need to apply for a visitor’s visa. Google for the website of the Chinese embassy in your country to learn about the application process. If you arrive at a different port of entry than those listed above, or have a passport from a country that is not on the approved list then you still qualify for the 24-hour exemption. There are very few entry points (such as Shenzhen and Sanya) where a limited visa-on-arrival can be granted under certain conditions and only for certain nationalities.