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

15 Responses

  1. 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/

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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