January 2019: see the updated post 2019 Guide to China 24-, 72- and 144-hour Transit without Visa (TWOV).
Update Nov 29: Added application form photo and TWOV channel and Shanghai Pudong PVG airport.
China has a few different visa-free transit schemes, also known as transit without visa (TWOV.) The most common is the 72 hour TWOV, however certain Chinese cities now allow many passport holders to stay for 144 hours = 6 days.
It allows passengers from 53 countries or regions to transit in the above cities or provinces for no more than 144 hours (6 days) or 72 hours (3 days) without holding a visa. Note you must be coming from and leaving to a different country, to be eligible. Details further.
144 Hour TWOV
The 144-hour visa-free transit policy is valid for entry points in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong.
See application form attached which indicates the verbiage and information you need to complete.
72 hour TWOV
You can obtain this visa in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming and Hangzhou.
- Inform airlines when you are boarding
- Fill in Arrival/Departure Card
- Apply the 72 or 144-hour transit visa upon arrival
Am I eligible?
Countries eligible for this policy including:
24 Schengen Agreement 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, Switzerland.
15 Other European Countries: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Belarus, Monaco.
6 American Countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile.
2 Oceania Countries: Australia, New Zealand.
6 Asian Countries: Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar.
If you are not eligible, you can still apply for a transitional China visa. Here’s a article to help.
- Apply for a China visa in HK
- If you don’t want to get the visa yourself, we recommend AsiaVisas as a visa agent in Hong Kong that can help take a lot of the pain out of the process.
Passengers should hold an onward ticket with a confirmed seat and date as well as a valid visa to a third country or region. In this case, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are considered as third regions.
- Country A – China – Country B is valid. (e.g. Hong Kong – Shanghai – Tokyo)
- Country A – China – Country A is not valid. (e.g. Sydney – Beijing – Sydney)
Passengers are required to enter and leave from the eligible transit ports (which is basically every airport, train station, and cruise terminal with international connections), but the entry port and exit port do not have to be the same.
The layover time should be limited to 72 or 144 hours. However, the free stay period counts from 00:00 of the day following passengers’ arrival. So if you arrive at 4:00 am on April 1, the layover time actually counts from 0:00 of April 2 and it means your stay is longer than 144 hours.
At Pudong Airport FYI, the TWOV channel looks like the below. Look for the sign for the “visa-exemption transit form.”
Documents needed for application:
- Valid passport from one of the above countries with 6+ mos validity and empty page
- Confirmed inbound flight ticket (to prove origin), confirmed outbound flight ticket (to prove leaving to third country)
- Visa for a third country/region (if needed)
- A fully completed China Arrival/Departure Card