China 24 Hour and 72 Hour Transit Visa TWOV

No one likes long layovers, but cheaper ticket prices often mean you do have to stop somewhere mid-way before arriving at your final destination. You are lucky if you have a layover in China, for China provides 24-hour temporary entry permits and 72-hour transit visas for visitors, which means you have the choice of exploring the city you are stopping at for up to 3 days instead of sulking in the airport!

There are two types of transit visas: 24-hour temporary entry permits and 72-hour transit visas.

china transit visa

24-hour temporary entry permits

This type of permit is for direct transit travelers, a.k.a. travelers who have no more than 24 hours between the scheduled landing time of arrival in China and the scheduled time for last departure from China. You can leave from a different city, but they must be connecting flights arriving and departing within 24 hours. e.g. Tokyo – Beijing – Guangzhou – Bangkok.

This permit is available for any nationality travelers for free and applicable to any vehicles (eg trains, ferries, planes…), as long as they hold tickets to their final destinations.

Apply for the permit upon arrival at immigration control. You typically have to queue at a different lane to apply for a permit so ask immigration officers around for instructions. A stopover permit will be stamped in your passport and you can leave for some sightseeing around.

If you already have a China visa in your passport, you can possibly ask the immigration official to provide you a 24 hour visa and preserve your existing China visa for another time. However, this may depend on your sales and negotiation skills.

72-hour transit visas

If your layover is longer than one day, you seriously have to consider getting this 72-hour transit visa, which again is free. The 72-hour visa-free transits are only issued to certain qualifying passengers at certain airports though. Generally you must stay in the same city or area which you arrive, see list below.

Which airports offer this visa? (you must arrive + depart from these cities)
Airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming and Hangzhou.

Updated Dec 10, 2016:

Passengers transiting in Guangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, or Changsha are allowed to travel in the whole province.

Passengers transiting in Beijing, Chongqing, Harbin, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, or Tianjin cannot leave the administrative area of the transit city.

Passengers transiting in Shanghai, Zhejiang, or Jiangsu can move around the three places.

Passengers stopping over in Dalian or Shenyang can travel in these two cities.

Passengers transiting in Xian Xianyang Airport are permitted to travel in the administrative areas of Xian and Xianyang.

 

Eligibility

  1. You must hold the passport of these 51 approved countries (sorted alphabetically):
    Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria,
    Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria,
    Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic,
    Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary,
    Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,
    Macedonia (FYROM), Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine,
    United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States.
  2. You have to hold an onward ticket with confirmed seats to a third country aka your destination.
  3. Only for passengers who travel by planes.
  4. You cannot leave the city during the 72-hour visa-free period, except in Guangzhou and Hangzhou, where you can leave for other places in the Guangdong province or the Zhejiang province respectively.

Procedures

  1. Inform airlines when you are boarding
  2. Fill in Arrival/Departure Card
  3. Apply the 72-hour transit visa

You again have to queue at a different lane to apply for a permit so ask immigration officers around/follow instruction boards for directions.

If you plan on staying in China and need a regular visa, refer to our other article.

Blogger: Frances Sit

32 Responses

  1. mindycwc says:

    Hi, I’m from Malaysia. I plan to visit HK-Shenzhen-Guangzhou-Macau next month but I don’t have China visa. I plan to take train to Shenzhen & Guangzhou from Hong Kong. If without visa, I can only visit the mainland for maximum 24 hrs?

  2. Tom Walker says:

    Hi,my sister and her family are flying into Hong Kong in June and flying out of Guangzhou the next day..can they get a 24 hour visa at the border between Hongkong and China?

    Thanks

  3. Jessica says:

    Hello,

    We are planning to travel to Hong Kong. We are currently in Cyprus and booked our flight from Larnaca to Shanghai. The roundtrip ticket was cheaper so we just picked a date and purchased the ticket. We will be taking a ferry to our final destination of Hong Kong on the 13th of April to allow for a little siteseeing in Shanghai. Could you let me know if this would qualify for the TWOV progarm? We have US and UK passports. Thank you so much! I know our trip is a little complicated 😉

  4. Sandi says:

    I read in one of your earlier responses that China only looks at where you are coming from and where you are going to next regarding the 72 TWOV. I am interested in purchasing flights from ORD–PEK(3 days)–HND–ORD. However, ORD to PEK is not a direct flight and has a 3 hour layover in NRT which is in the same country as HND. So will this itinerary still require a visa even though my origin is ORD?

  5. david says:

    Hi, I read you can get a 72 hour visa from Shenzhen airport, do you know if this is correct. If so can I get this and then exit Shenzhen to Hong Kong from where I will fly home

  6. Joanna says:

    Please help me every website says something different about 24 hr visa free – I arrive by cruise at 7am to Tianjin and leave from Beijing airport at 9pm – do I need a visa ?! Royal Caribbean told me yes but shouldnt I quality for 24 hour visa free exemption ?!

    • Christopher R. says:

      Isn’t that 26 hours, which is over the 24 hour limit you mention?

      What port do you leave from prior to Tianjin and where is your flight to? Transit without visa in Shanghai should be possible even for over 24 hours from cruise to ship if those two places are in different countries, for Beijing I haven’t yet seen such a policy though it may exist.

      • Joanna says:

        It’s only 14 hours from 7am to 9pm , port prior to Tianjin is incheon korea

        • Christopher R. says:

          In that case to me it sounds as if it would be fine as long as your flight out is going somewhere other than South Korea or mainland China. China has long operated twenty four hours transit. To move between Tianjin and Beijing you may need to request a temporary stay permit at the immigration office at Tianjin port. I don’t have personal experience of this process there so am only speaking from my understanding.
          That said, you may also want to clarify with your cruise operator whether their stated visa requirement is simply a suggestion, or a condition of boarding.
          Good luck, enjoy the cruise, and afterwards please feel free to post here how it went, as we may pull together an article on port visas at some point to help people in your situation.

          • jo says:

            just returned from cruise, i was told by both royal carribean multiple people on the ship as well as chinese immigration that because i’m transiting to the airport within 24 hours i did not need visa. at the tianjin port there is a separate line for 24 hour transit passengers.

          • Christopher R. says:

            Thanks, we’re glad it worked out for you. We may do a post on this point to help other travellers.

        • Christopher R. says:

          How did it work in the end Joanna?

  7. Johnny says:

    As a US citizen, if I buy a roundtrip ticket SYD-CAN-SYD, but one of the legs has a layover in a third country, does that work? Example: I have SYD-CAN on the way. Then, within 72 hours, I have CAN-HKG-SYD as a single ticket, will this work for TWOV? Technically, I’m returning to SYD as my final destination, but just with a short layover in HKG. Thanks for any info.

    • Hi Johnny, yes your SYD-CAN-HKG-SYD routing should be compliant as you are entering from Australia, and leaving to Hong Kong, hence it fits the third country rule. China should only be concerned with SYD-CAN-HKG portion, though as with many things in China, it’s at the discretion of the immigration agent, so you may need to prepare to defend your eligibility. But honestly they get so many people traveling TWOV these days I don’t think you’ll have a problem, as long as the airline lets you on the plane.

      Keep in mind Guangzhou and Shanghai are now allowed 144 visa free, I will publish another article soon on this topic.

      Side note, as a US citizen you can consider the 10 yr China visa if you plan on going back. Will make things easier and you can stay longer in China.
      https://hktravelblog.com/china/us-citizens-10-year-china-visa/

      • Johnny says:

        Thank you so much for your reply. So based on your understanding, it doesn’t matter that HKG is simply a layover?

        • To my knowledge, it doesn’t matter how long your layover in the third country is. China should only care about where you came from and are going to next. If you were doing SYD-CAN-MEL or SYD-CAN-SYD you cannot get TWOV, but SYD-CAN-HKG you can.

          • Johnny says:

            Thank you so much

          • Johnny says:

            I wanted to followup both to thank you again as well as to add more color for your readers.

            I did the above. Not exactly that itinerary but similar. Specifically, I bought a roundtrip ticket on an aggregator and they put me on different airlines for the flight to CAN and the return.

            Flight to CAN: Scoot SYD->SIN->CAN (SIN was a layover, not chosen by me)
            Return flight: AirAsia CAN->KUL->SYD (KUL was a layover, not chose by me)

            So, despite starting and ending in Australia, I was fine because of the layovers, as you noted. SIN->CAN->KUL meets the requirement regardless of “final destination.”

            In terms of pro-tips:

            1) At CAN airport (probably other major China airports too), there is a dedicated line for TWOV — not just TWOV, but for “special” cases and TWOV happens to be one of them. They listed “72-hour Visa-Free Transit” in Chinese and English on a green sign. The line was nearly empty, so go there directly, and don’t wait in the much much longer line for “Foreigners.”

            2) Have the information about where you’re staying, including a phone number whether that’s the hotel’s number or a local’s number.

            3) The arrival card still applies to you. Fill it out.

            4) PRINT OUT EVERYTHING: Your current flight info that brought you to CAN. Your flight that brings you out. Your hotel confirmation. I forgot to print my hotel confirmation. They actually sent me back into the gate area to look for someone who could print it out for me. Thankfully I found someone. But be prepared so you don’t have to deal with this.

            5) Give yourself time. I arrived at 2am in CAN and besides my flight, the airport was nearly empty. Still, this whole process took me nearly 75 minutes! Granted, a bulk of that for me was finding the person to print out my hotel info. But even when you have all the info, you just sit around for awhile until the border people go through the info you gave them. Why it takes so long for them to look at your flight, hotel, and passport, I have no idea. Just be prepared to wait.

            6) There’s some confusion around the registering with local police. Supposedly, your hotel does it for you, but when I asked my hotel about it, they had no clue and didn’t bother, but kept telling me not to worry. In the end, nothing happened, but that was strange.

            7) All of this TWOV stuff only applies when you arrive. They don’t really care after that. When you are departing China, even though there’s a special line, it’s not for departing TWOV (I tried). There’s no hassle whatsoever when you leave. Granted, I left within the 72-hour period (by one hour), so I don’t know what happens if you overstay.

            Hope that helps.

  8. CCO says:

    Hi,

    I´m going to travel from LAX to Bangkok with transit in Shanghai Pudong Airport. I am from Peru and Chinese embassy website says that peruvians do not need visa for transit (less than 24 hours, remaining at the airport).

    China Eastern Airlines have not confirmed if they are going to provide boarding passes for whole trip at LAX. Then I don´t know if I need to pick up baggage at Pudong and check-in again at airline counter.

    Transit time is 2 hours and 25 minutes

    My question: Is it possible to apply TWOV and leave airport transit area to check-in and get boarding pass for next flight to Bangkok?

    Thank you for your valuable infomation and help!

    • You shouldn’t need to recheck luggage since your layover is short, most likely it’ll be checked through to Bangkok. You can get your onward boarding pass on the secure side at PVG if needed, no need to go through immigration/security again. Just follow the “transit” signs.

      • CCO says:

        Thank you HKTravelBlog! Just one more question… on my way back transit time is 13 hours and 5 minutes at Pudong. Should I need to re check luggage? Appreciate all your help!

  9. Mohit says:

    Hi,
    I called China Eastern Airlines today and asked them about the same. My flight schedule is Delhi-Shanghai-Beijing-Osaka.
    They told me i cannot avail Free Transit @ Beijing and have to apply for transit visa before flying. Also,that Shanghai airport is fine with Free Transit but not Beijing.
    Chinese embassy website says that almost all airports have this facility,contrary to what i have been told.
    Be careful people.
    I called Chinese embassy but they didnt pick up my call. Will try again tomorrow.

    • Zee says:

      Hi,

      I actually just flew with them last month. While it is advisable to get a visa to be safe, China’s immigration officers are actually easy to deal with. They weren’t able to see my visa at first so they were drafting the TWOV but then I told them I don’t need one and showed them my visa. There’s a separate lane for foreigners upon arrival and then you will be directed to a special lane for the TWOV. I went to Chengdu, Pudong, and Hongqiao.

      About the airline, check the label of their meals! They provided us with expired food! Their airfares are cheap, yes. But I don’t think I’ll ever fly with them again!

  10. zmen says:

    Hi,

    I’ve actually been looking for information regarding TWOV. This article is a good read.
    I have a single entry visa to China (will use it for the departure ticket) but my problem is with the Return flight. I have Jeju – Pudong – Chengdu T2 – Chengdu T1 – Manila. Will I be able to make use of the 24 hr TWOV?

    • Not 100% certain, but generally I believe if you have an existing visa in your passport they’ll use that instead of giving you a TWOV. If you want to preserve that visa and get a 24 hour/72 hours visa. I would communicate that clearly to the immigration officer and make sure they do that.

      Regarding your itinerary, are long as you’re going from Pudong to Chengdu and out of China within 24 hours, you should be OK.

  11. rwhite says:

    Do you have a reference for the fact that you can enter by plane and exit by train on the 24 TWOV? Has anyone ever tried it? I can’t seem to find much on it anywhere and my embassy website only mentions travel by plane.

Leave a Reply