For those traveling through China, the new 144-hour China transit visa is a welcome opportunity to see the country without the hassle of applying for a full visa. The problem – as you probably know – is finding accurate, up-to-date information on how to get the visa and who is eligible for the 144-hour transit visa in China. Perhaps that’s you? If so, I’m sure you’re going to find this complete guide to China’s transit visa extremely helpful.
At this point, most travelers who want to spend any significant portion of time in China need to go through the process of applying for a China visa, paying the consulate fees, waiting for approval, etc., etc. It’s time consuming, expensive and not fun.
But what if you just want to spend a few days in Beijing seeing the Great Wall? Or perhaps you have a short stopover in Shanghai? That’s where China’s new 144-hour transit visa (6 days) comes in handy.
Unlike traditional tourist visas, a transit visa is issued upon arrival in China. This means that you don’t need to apply before you get on the airplane, which is great. However, there are a number of restrictions that you need to understand before you decide to take advantage of the 144-hour China transit visa.
I’d like to walk you through what you need to know before you jump on that plane. Hopefully you’ll find this guide helpful. This is also part of my complete China visa guide that I’ve made available for free download here:
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Which Cities Offer the 144-Hour China Transit Visa?
It’s important to distinguish between two parts of the transit visa: your port of entry and your region of movement.
Port of Entry
In order to take advantage of the 144-hour China transit visa, you MUST arrive and depart through one of the following cities. This can be done via an airport, train station or water port.
- Hangzhou (Zhejiang)
- Nanjing (Jiangsu)
- Shijiazhuang (Hebei)
- Qinghuangdao (Heibei)
- Dalian (Liaoning)
- Shenyang (Liaoning)
- Guangzhou (Guangdong)
- Shenzhen (Guangdong)
- Jieyang (Guangdong)
Region of Movement
Once you’ve entered through one of these cities, visitors using the 144-hour transit visa must remain within the specified regions that include:
- All of Beijing and surrounding areas (including the Great Wall).
- Tianjin as well as the entire Hebei and Liaoning provinces.
- All of Shanghai including the surrounding water towns.
- The nearby Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces surrounding Shanghai.
- All of the Guangdong province, which includes the cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
For travelers that attempt to travel beyond these borders, you’ll be stopped at the train station, airport or other port when they ask to see your passport.
Of course, if you’re wanting to travel outside of these cities and regions, you’ll want to check options for the 72-hour China transit visa which is currently adopted by a number of other Chinese cities and region.
Finally, if you wish to spend more than 6 days in China or if you want the freedom to move around anywhere you want in the country, you’re better off applying for and getting a traditional China visa. You can read more about my recommended China visa services.
Which Countries Qualify? 144-hour Transit Visa
Not every single country passport is eligible for China’s 144-hour transit visa. There’s a good chance, however, that yours is. Check below to make sure that your home country is on the list:
- European countries: Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Belarus, Monaco.
- American countries: United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile.
- Asian countries:Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar.
- 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.
- Oceania countries: New Zealand and Australia.
If your country is not listed above, you should contact your local Chinese embassy to find out what provisions they have for you in regards to the 144-hour transit visa. It never hurts to ask! At the very least, you might be eligible for the 72-hour transit visa.
IMPORTANT! Transit Visa Rules & Restrictions
There are a couple restrictions for China’s transit visas that I’d to point out before you decide to move forward.
*Transit Routes: In order to take advantage of any China transit visa (72-hour or 144-hour), your original place of departure and your final destination must be different countries/regions. In other words, you can’t book a round-trip ticket from the U.S. and use the 144-hour transit visa. If you’re coming to China from the U.S., your next destination must be another country. It’s worth noting that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau count as a “different country/region” in this case.
*Restricted Movement: Regions of movement are independently administered, which means that those who have a 144-hour transit visa in Shanghai aren’t permitted to move up into Beijing. These restricted regions are split up into four parts: 1) Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei; 2) Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang; 3) the Liaoning province (Dalian & Sheyang); 4) Guangdong province. You must arrive, move about and depart all within the same region.
*Exact Timing: Once you receive your transit visa, you’ll see exactly when you need to depart China. For planning purposes, it helps to know that your 144-hours starts at midnight the day after you arrive in China. That means that if your plane arrives at 10am on Wednesday, your 144-hour transit visa clock begins at midnight on Thursday morning.
*Extenuating Circumstances: If for some reason you are unable to leave within 144-hours (i.e. health problems or business meetings), you must apply for a full visa from the nearest Public Security Bureau Entry-Exit Administration Office.
Documents Required for a 144-hour Transit Visa
Thankfully, the required documents to obtain a 144-hour transit visa aren’t too complicated.
When you walk up to the customs counter at your point of entry, they will want you to have:
- A valid passport: Of course! You’ll have that with you anyway to board your flight.
- An Entry/Exit Card: You will find this card in the customs area. This will include your nationality, name, flight number, passport number, place of issuance, date of birth, gender, and purpose of visit.
- A visa for a third region or country (if required): If your country of destination doesn’t require a visa, you can ignore this. Otherwise, you’ll need proof of valid entry into the third country.
- A ticket with a confirmed seat number for the next flight that leaves within 144 hours. This is important. They want to know that you are already booked to leave within the required time period.
Looking for a traditional Chinese visa? Check out our Complete Guide to Chinese Visas
How to Apply for a 144-hour China Transit Visa
Now that you know what documents are required for China’s 144-hour transit visa, let’s quickly walk through what you’re going to need to do in order to have smooth travel.
- At the Departure Airport: Before you get on a plane bound for China, you will want to let your airline know that you wish to take advantage of the 144-hour China transit visa. Airlines are required to check for proper visas prior to letting you on the plane, so this will be an important step. The Airline will pass on your request to customs before you land.
- Upon Landing in China: Once you arrive at a port of entry in China, you’ll enter the customs area just like all the other travelers with you. The difference is that within the customs area you’ll be looking for a specific line for those applying for a 144-hour transit visa. Don’t worry about it too much – you’ll see signs everywhere directing you to the right place. Just keep your eyes open. Once you’ve been approved (which should only take 5-10 minutes while you’re standing there), they will stamp your passport with a date by which you must depart.
That’s really it! It’s not a super-complicated process once your travels plans have been made. As long as you have all your documents in order, the process is smooth and easy.
If while planning your trip you decide that you would like to spend more than 144 hours in China or visit other places throughout the country, we highly recommend you read through our list of the best China visa services to help you obtain a China visa quickly and easily:
Conclusion: China’s 144-Hour Transit Visa
China’s 144-Hour transit visas are a great option for individuals who desire to visit China without having to apply for an extended visa. The guidelines are fairly straightforward and painless as long as one plans ahead and provides the required documents.