It’s official, starting January 1, 2013, Beijing will allow transits to a third country to be visa-free for 3 days (72 hours)! This is very similar to what China offers in Shanghai, but in Shanghai it’s 48 hours. You’ll get a stamped 3 day visa upon arrival at immigration and confirmation of your transit.
However, there is a restricted list of 45 countries which you can be a citizen of to be eligible, which is below and obtained from Xinhua. Sorted by region first then country. (Europe, Americas, Asia, Middle East)
— the Czech Republic;
— the Republic of Lithuania;
— the Republic of Malta;
— the Netherlands;
— the Republic of Slovakia;
— the Republic of Slovenia;
— the United Kingdom of Britain;
— the Republic of Ireland;
— the United States of America;
— New Zealand;
— the Republic of Korea;
— the United Arab Emirates;
In case you are unsure, this means you must start and end in a different country and for airline purposes, Hong Kong is treated as a separate country from China, as is Taiwan and Macau. Be sure to bring your PRINTED airline ticket confirmations to show the immigration officials. Make sure your name and airline ticket/confirmation number are visible.
- HKG Hong Kong – PEK Beijing – NRT Tokyo or LHR – PEK – HKG is valid.
- HKG – PEK – HKG is not valid
While not every country is on the list, it certainly includes some of the most populous ones, and I think is a move towards making the Chinese carriers more competitive in the airline industry. Also, with China visas so expensive for many people, it’s a good way to visa China without paying visa fees. Know this, I certainly will try to route myself on Air China now to visit some friends in Beijing (but I’ll wait until Springtime.)