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How to Successfully Travel to China Without a Visa

With pandemic-era travel restrictions now long in the rearview mirror, interest in traveling to mainland China is picking up again for international visitors. However, a fair number of people are deterred by perceived difficulties in obtaining a visa. Except that many potential visitors don’t need a visa at all. There is a little-known visa exemption policy for entering China, which allows you to bypass the process entirely.

there We are However, there are restrictions on how visa-free entry to China works. I’m someone who should know, because in 2019, I messed up During his visit to Shenzhen. In the process, I was forcibly denied boarding for my flight from Taipei to Shenzhen by well-armed officers who did not seem pleased with me. I was forced to spend the night in Taipei, and had to completely rebook my ticket to and from Shenzhen in order to meet China’s requirement to use its visa exemption.

I really took an L on that one. But recently, I was able to accomplish this feat, without being denied boarding, armed officers or other interference along the way. Being on both sides of the equation, and apparently the law, you can trust that I know exactly what you do and don’t need to do in order to navigate the system with aplomb.

Busy streets of Shanghai

politeness

What is visa-free transit exemption in China?

China only allows visa-free entry to visitors from a select few countries, an eclectic group of about a dozen countries ranging from Armenia and the United Arab Emirates to the Bahamas and San Marino. but, China recently opened this policy To a number of major European countries as well.

“Beginning March 7, China expanded the scope of visa-free countries and implemented visa exemption policies for passport holders from Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg,” says Natalie Kidd, Asia CEO of Asia. Travel intrepidly. This follows the previous additions of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, in addition to Malaysia. All of these countries are technically going through a trial period that lasts until November 30, 2024 and allows visa-free entry for 15 days without any restrictions. It is assumed, but not yet clear, that this will be a permanent policy going forward.

For citizens of the United States, along with 53 other countries, the only way to enter China without a visa is to take advantage of… Visa-free transit exemption. This allows for a stay of 24 hours, 72 hours, or 144 hours, a full six-day visit for those who prefer not to do the math themselves.

The devil is in the details, of course, and in order to qualify, you must enter and exit the country through one of its approved ports; You need to stay within the specific area you have entered or assigned adjacent areas; You need a transit ticket with China as a way station between the country of origin and a different country of destination. Let’s take a closer look.

Chinese visa

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How to use visa-free transit exemption in China

The most important element of this type of visa-free entry is that it is designed specifically for transit tickets. Temporary bookings take you from country A, such as the US, to China, and then to country C, whether you continue on to Japan, South Africa, or whatever the case may be.

But the most important thing, and what messed up the process in 2019, is that if you connect on your way to China, that country actually becomes your starting point. Since my flights to and from China were through Taipei, Taiwan, I had the same origin and end destination, even though I was actually coming from the US and then heading to Austria.

Recently, I used visa-free transit access without a problem coming from Colombo, Sri Lanka, landed in Shanghai, spent a few days on the ground and then departed via a direct flight to the US, on the convenient China Eastern route between Shanghai and Los Angeles. This was the reservation I was actually planning to use, and when I realized I could do another tour on visa-free entry, I simply changed my six-hour layover in Shanghai to a two-night stay that allowed me to explore the city. .

Why not? I enjoyed the otherworldly horizon, ate my share of soup dumplings and noodles, and rested my head in the luxurious restaurant Grand Hyatt Shanghai Located inside the giant 89-storey Jinmao Tower, we visited a number of excellent cocktail bars, including The odd couple, Al-Ittihad Trading Company And Speak in a low voice.

However, visa-free entry is allowed to 20 cities within China, through a total of 29 ports of entry. Technically, the 72-hour exemption is offered at fewer ports and destinations, in which case, simply choose to follow the 144-hour protocol even if you spend less time than it allows.

Once in the country, you generally must stay within the same city and in the immediate vicinity of its county. For example, if you enter via Shanghai, you can stay in Shanghai and visit Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, but you cannot try to go somewhere else, such as Beijing or Chengdu. This is what we call no no. Identifies each entry port The specific areas you are allowed to visit or not.

You do not need to complete any application in advance or follow any specific procedures before entering China in this way, as long as you follow the above conditions to the letter. If you follow the protocols, there is no need to worry.

“We recommend visa-free travel to China if travelers meet the requirements,” says Kidd. “It is a convenient way for visitors who want to come to China for a short-term visit to save time and money. As long as the visitors or travelers meet the visa exemption requirements, there should be no problems.”

When you check in for your flight at your departure airport, tell the gate agents that you are using a visa-free transit exemption, and they will check your reservations and make sure everything is in good standing. Be aware that this may take a few minutes and a bit of uncertainty; Most airline representatives I’ve dealt with don’t seem to be entirely clear on the machinations of this policy without researching it and calling up a supervisor or two. I was allowed to board two connecting flights before being denied boarding in Taipei, for example, so it really falls on you to be as compliant as possible when the authorities are less familiar with the procedures in place.

In addition to making sure your flight booking and itinerary follow the required steps, here are some helpful tips for successful visa-free entry into China:

  • Carry printed and physical copies of your hotel verification as well as your inbound and outbound flight information.
  • Get contact numbers and addresses for hotels as well as any tour operators or local contacts.
  • Complete the correct access card in the waiting area before the queue. It’s a different form than the one most visitors receive and complete.
  • There is a separate line for visa-free access, so make sure you enter the correct area.
  • Even if this line seems very short, it takes time to process each visa-free arrival. Be prepared to wait a while, and prepare as much as possible with the right information to speed up your processing.
  • Download China-friendly internet apps that will work in the country – for example, nothing from Google – before departing from your home country, so you can use them to look up any of the above information in short order.

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