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Beijing & Shanghai 72-Hour Visa Free Policy

Beijing & Shanghai 72-Hour Visa Free Policy
January 21, 2013

  • Line for 72-hour visa free transit

    Terminal 2 of the Beijing Capital International Airport

    Line for 72-hour visa free transit

We strongly recommended that you obtain the Chinese visa. If you do not obtain a Chinese visa, you do so at your own risk. International airport counters are not well informed about this new policy and some of our customers have been denied boarding.

UPDATED: February 1, 2016: Shanghai is implementing a new 6-day visa free transit! Not much has come out about the usage of it, but it’s assumed that the procedures will be the same. Present your ticket (and visa if applicable) to the ongoing third country within the permitted time, and you can explore Shanghai and select surrounding cities for 6 days visa free. Remember, you need to fly (yes, fly - can’t exit or enter by train) from the same city as you entered through - Shanghai. See more information on the Shanghaiist

UPDATED: October 5, 2015: One of our American travelers was just denied boarding on Delta at the Tampa airport for lack of Chinese visa. In this incident, he made it through check-in without a problem but was denied at boarding even with boarding ticket on hand. Furthermore, this was only a connecting flight to Detroit. Since his final destination was to Beijing, counter staff held him resulting in missing his flight. Again, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you apply for the Chinese visa before meeting us in Beijing/Shanghai.

UPDATED: May 1, 2015: One of our American travelers was nearly denied at the UA counter of Newark, NJ to Beijing because she did not have the physical DPRK visa in hand. To date, we’ve been okay with UA passengers producing just the Air Koryo itinerary, but this incident further proves that you’re at the whim of each individual check-in counter representative. For North Korea travelers via China, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you apply for the Chinese visa before meeting us in Beijing/Shanghai.

UPDATED April 2015: while our U.S. travelers have had no problems using the 72-hour transit, we had one client denied exit out of Moscow. The Russian authorities did not believe people can get tourist visas to the DPRK. If you are transiting via Moscow to join one of our tours, get the Chinese visa.

UPDATED January 25, 2015: It has now been 2 full years since the introduction of China’s 72 hour visa-free policy when transiting through certain Chinese cities. In the beginning, international check-in counters that were used to checking for Chinese visas in passports were not familiar with the new policy.  We had a few incidents where travelers on our North Korea tours wishing to take advantage of the 72-hour visa free policy were denied entry in their home country for either lack of knowledge of the new policy or sometimes lack of DPRK visa, even though they had the PDF copy of it. We have been supplying our North Korea travelers, at their request, with letters that they can present at check-in, explaining the new policy and that the physical DPRK visa is only received in China, where the DPRK has an embassy. This has provided much comfort to check-in counters and has helped to make check-in a smooth process. Once in China, the entry is fairly routine with the right documentation. This policy allows travelers to travel via China on to North Korea without a Chinese visa, and with very little prep work in advance. However, with the introduction of the 10-year Chinese visa for American travelers, it might be worth your while to just get the visa! See below.

UPDATED March 1, 2014: Effective January 1, 2014, Shenyang will also allow travelers to enter visa-free for a period of less than 72 hours if they are traveling onto a third country. Same deal as with Beijing and Shanghai, so if you plan to travel visa-free, read this post.

**NOTE: Travelers must use the same airport for entry and exit to qualify for 72 hour visa free stay. For North Korea travelers, you must fly into Pyongyang; train option is not available if traveling without a Chinese visa.**

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Effective January 1, 2013, China now offers 72-hours of visa-free transit for foreign visitors who are transiting through Beijing, Shanghai and a number of other Chinese cities on to a third country. We confirmed with Chinese airport authorities that our North Korean travelers can make use of this new policy.

One must meet the following requirements in order to apply for a visa-free transit at the time of arrival into China (see permitted cities below):

    You hold a passport from one of the 45 qualifying countries listed below
    You have valid travel documents, as explained below
    You must be leaving China to enter a third country (you cannot use this policy to return from the country you came from)
    You must hold valid airline tickets showing departure within 72-hours with transit via the Chinese airport to the third country. The airline company must report your election of visa free stay to the Chinese immigration inspection authorities upon your check-in.

SO HOW DOES IT WORK?

Check-in: When you check-in for your China flight at your home country, notify the airline you are flying with that you intend to apply for a 72-hour visa. Allow sufficient time for this process (at least one hour), as the airline will need to confirm that you are indeed traveling to a third country (North Korea, in this case). You will need to show them the same documentation you will show Chinese immigration officials (see below). Airlines in your home country will be very keen on confirming that you have all of the proper documentation because as we’ve heard and can speculate, if you are denied entry in China for lack of documentation, the airline you used to fly into China is liable for any charges to bring you back to the home country.

Follow signs for 72-hour visa or look for the transit line:

Present documents:

You must present 2 things the Air Koryo or Air China ticket issued by Uri Tours confirming your trip to North Korea within 72 hours of entry into China.

If you have a Chinese hotel confirmation for the duration of your stay in China, you can present that too, although it’s no longer a necessity.

You do not need to have the physical DPRK visa in hand or even a copy of it, but, as an added measure, print out a copy of your North Korean visa before you leave. We make every effort to send you a PDF copy of your DPRK visa as soon as we obtain it but we CANNOT guarantee this.

Plan to wait another 30 minutes while customs and immigration verify your North Korea travel plans and clear you. (It’s not a refined process by any means—they’re still working out the kinks. But good news is that it does generally work and saves you the $130 Chinese visa fee.)

Then you’re done! Just make sure you don’t overstay your 72 hour limit or leave city limits, although we’ve been told that a day trip to the Great Wall is fine for Beijing travelers.

The same procedures apply for the way back from North Korea. Just make sure you have a copy of your connecting flight (China - to home/third country) printed before your trip. Air Koryo in Pyongyang will require these documents in the case that you don’t have a Chinese visa.

Chinese cities that permit 72-hour visa free stay:
Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Xian, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guilin, Kunming and Hangzhou

Citizens of the following countries are eligible to take advantage of China’s new 72 hour visa policy:

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, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar.

**Note that if you do not qualify to benefit from the 72-hour visa free policy, China has a 24-hour transit policy that allows you to enter China for less than 24 hours with proof of an onward flight itinerary.