2019 Guide to China 24-, 72- and 144-hour Transit without Visa (TWOV)

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China has a few different visa-free transit schemes, also known as transit without visa (TWOV.) Different cities allow 24-, 72- or 144-hour transit without visa depending on specific circumstances. Here we outline the essentials. China changes its rules quite often, so to help fellow travellers please post your own experiences in the comments section below if they help elucidate TWOV, or changes from what is written here.

TWOV allows passengers from 53 countries or regions to transit in select 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. For these purposes, Hong Kong Kong and Macau count as different countries. Details further below.

Mode of Arrival Matters

The mode of transport from which you travel out of China is not relevant to transit without visa – plane, ship and train are all fine. But the mode by which you arrive does make a difference. 72-hour and 144-hour TWOV is generally only available for those arriving by air. If you arrive by train or ship, you may be restricted to a 24-hour transit period.

144 Hour TWOV

The 144-hour visa-free transit policy is valid for entry points in Beijing, Chengdu, Dalian, Hebei province, Jiangsu provinceKunming, Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen and Zhejiang province,.

72 hour TWOV

72 transit without visa is offered in Changsha, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Guangzhou, Guilin, Harbin, Kunming, Qingdao, and Xi’an. 

Note that the 72 hour TWOV requires you to arrive by air, so if for example you took the train from Pyongyang to Shenyang and had booked a flight two days later from there to Bangkok, you would not be eligible for it.

24 Hour TWOV

In common with many countries, China also offers a 24 hour transit without visa for passengers at most ports and airports, with the exceptions of Fuzhou, Huangshan, Mudanjiang, Yanji and Urumqi (where specific exceptions apply). The 24 hour period is counted from the scheduled arrival time.

Procedures

  1. Inform airlines when you are boarding. Airlines like Cathay Dragon in Hong Kong will be well used to this, but if for example you are checking in at Aberdeen airport for a flight to London thence to China, the checkin staff may be much less familiar with the rules, so it will help to allow yourself  sufficient time in case they have a query.
  2. Fill in Arrival/Departure Card for transit passengers. This will likely only be available once you arrive at the port in China. Example below.

3. Airports in China now often have fingerprint machines for arriving foreign passport holders. Follow the signs to these and complete the procedure before heading to the immigration area. There, some airports such as Beijing and Shanghai have dedicated transit without visa desks, while others will simply ask you to wait in the normal queue for foreign passport holders.

4. Apply for the 72 or 144-hour transit visa upon arrival. You will need to show evidence of onward travel plans, such as an itinerary or e-ticket. We recommend you print this out in advance. Bear in mind that e.g. GMail does not work in China as standard, so do not rely on calling up an electronic itinerary when you arrive.

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 an article to help.

Application conditions:

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) because China is not a transit point, but the destination of a return journey from a single country.

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, at most ports 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. Note that at Beijing, it is counted from the scheduled arrival time of your inbound flight, not midnight of the day of arrival.

At Pudong Airport FYI, the TWOV channel looks like the below. Look for the sign for the “visa-exemption transit form.”

In Beijing airport’s terminal two, it looks like this.

Documents needed for application:

  • Valid passport from one of the above countries with 6+ mos validity and empty page
  • Confirmed inbound flight ticket, itinerary or boarding pass (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 for transit passenger, as shown above.

Travelling Around Inside China On a TWOV

The TWOV stamp is limited to the area in which you collect it – sometimes a city, such as Wuhan, or sometimes several provinces, as for example if you collect it in Shanghai or Hangzhou. So you will be expected to stay in that city or province(s) until you leave China. The Chinese government monitors movement, for example with its hotel registration requirement. The only exception to this is if your total transit time in China is less than 24 hours, in which case internal flights are allowed. So, e.g., if you fly London to Kunming to Beijing to Tokyo and spend less than twenty four hours from landing in Kunming to taking off from Beijing, you may be eligible for TWOV. If you spend more than 24 hours, you will not, as the Kunming TWOV does not extend to Beijing/Tianjin (and vice versa).

Feel free to refer to our previous articles on 24 hr, and 72 hr TWOV. If you’re interested in reading the official China transit rules from TIMANTIC.

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10 Comments

  1. Hello, I will only have 4,5-hour layover in Beijing. I’m holding an Indonesian passport. Do you think I’ll be allowed for the 24-hour Temporary Entry Permit? Thank you very much.

  2. If an Australian (holding Australia Visa) travel to Shenzhen from Hong Kong by train, then go to Shenzhen airport and flying to Australia (Within 24 hours for sure), can he/she apple for 24H TWOV?

    • Christopher R. on

      In theory yes (the train needs to be a train into China i.e. the high speed train from HK, not an MTR train to the border checkpoint). In practice, however, there may be an element of luck involved. Personally I’d feel a bit uncomfortable relying on 24 hour TWOV in this situation if it risked the onward flight.
      If you do do this, please let us know how you get on.

  3. Charles Norton on

    I have a flight to Bali in March with Southern China Airlines (SFO – Guangzhou – Bali) but there is a technical stop in Wuhan from SFO to Guangzhou. US passport holder. I have been seeing threads about people not being allowed to board due to multiple stops. I’m under 24-hours, I land in Wuhan @ 6:35pm and depart Guangzhou the following day @ 6:10pm. I’m not sure if I will be getting off the plane in Wuhan, on my ticket it has one flight number from SFO – Guangzhou and it also shows one flight time (the technical stop in Wuhan in included)

    Please Help! Thanks!

    • Christopher R. on

      As the total is under 24 hours you should be fine, though you may want to allow a little extra time to explain that to checkin agents in SFO in case they query it.

  4. We have a 19 hour layover in Shanghai (US passports, Bangkok-Shanghai-SFO). We have read of incidences where the travelers were not granted entry to the city and were not allowed to leave the airport. Are we at the mercy of the visa clerk or What are the requirements to visit the city with the 24 hour visa? Must we have a tour, hotel or train tickets booked in advance? We hope to take the train to the Bund and get a quick feel for the city. Thank you.

    • You’ll be fine based on the information you provided. As long as you have your onward air itinerary, you don’t need to print out train tickets or anything.
      The train will take you (fast once it starts) to Pudong but it’s not the Bund. You will still need to take subway/taxi to the Bund, there is a local ferry which crosses the water there depending on how local you want to get.
      Show your inbound boarding pass when you buy the Maglev train tickets for a discount.
      Returning you may find the reliable airport buses or a taxi a better option – the train is fun to do once but its terminus is not especially conveniently located.
      The Bund is picturesque but in nineteen hours you can do a lot more besides should you feel so inclined.

  5. “Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are considered as third regions.”

    Are they considered separate third regions? Can I fly from Macau to Shanghai then to Hong Kong? (I currently live in Hong Kong, so I can take the ferry to Macau.

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