What are the circumstances for Chinese visa-free entry?

A foreign citizen can enter China without a visa under the following circumstances:

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1. Direct Transit

A foreign person flying through China by air is exempt from a visa if only staying inside the airport (without going through border control) for no more than a day and has a valid ticket with a confirmed seat on an international flight.

2. Transit in Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu Shanghai, etc. within 72 hours:

Citizens of 51 countries with approved airline tickets and travel documents for a connecting flight with a confirmed flight seat and date for a third country can apply for a three-day transit visa exception at ports of entry Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, Guilin Liangjiang Airport, Kunming Changshui International Airport, Xi'an Xianyang International Airport, Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, Harbin Taiping International Airport, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, Tianjin Binhai International Airport, and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport.

3. Foreign Citizens to visit Hainan Island or Pearl River Delta:

A. A foreign person having a passport provided by a country with diplomatic relations with China is exempt from a visa if he is already in Macao or Hong Kong and is joining a tour group arranged by a travel company registered in Hong Kong or Macao to visit the Pearl River Delta (including Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Huizhou, and Guangzhou) and his stay is no more than six days.

B. A foreign citizen having an ordinary passport provided by one of the following countries is exempt from a visa when he joins a tour group (of five or more people) organized by a Hainan-registered international Travel Agency is arranged with the permission of China National Tourism Administration visiting Hainan Province and his stay does not exceed 15 days: Austria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Thailand, Great Britain, Ukraine, and the USA.

Nationals of Germany, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation can join an international tour group and stay for 21 days.

4. Citizens of Japan, Singapore, and Brunei:

A national of Singapore, Japan, or Brunei with an ordinary passport is exempt from a visa when visiting mainland China for business, tourism, or meeting relatives or friends. When entering China via ports open for a foreign citizen, and stays no longer than 15 days.

However, a visa is needed for citizens of these three countries under the following circumstances:

A. A passport holder visits China for business, tourism, or meeting with relatives or friends and stays longer than 15 days.

B. A passport holder visits China for work, permanent residence, study official visit or reporting purpose.

C. A Japanese citizen is traveling on an official or diplomatic passport.

5. Holders of a valid APEC Business Travel Card:

The APEC Business Travel Card replaces a multiple-entry visa valid for three years. A cardholder presenting a valid passport whose biographical and image information exactly match those on the APEC Business Travel Card may enter China various times for a stay of not more than two months per entry during the card's validity.

6. Holders of a valid Residence Permit issued by the Public Security Bureau:

Foreign nationals entering China for study, work, or resident foreign journalists must apply for a residence license from the local public security within thirty days of entering China. Permit holders can stay in China and enter or leave China various times during the permit's validity period without a visa.

7. Bilateral Agreement:

Based on bilateral agreements, foreign persons of some countries who fulfill specific requirements can visit China without a visa. 

As of September 1, 2013, citizens of countries that have signed bilateral visa-free agreements with China who planned to study in China may work as resident journalists or visit China for family reunification for more than six months to reside permanently in China to work or reside in China must apply for an appropriate J1, Q1, S1, X1, D or Z visa before entering China.

About This Author

Philip Diack is Founder and Managing Director of Passports and Visas.com, a national passport and travel visa service with offices in Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC, NYC, Denver and San Francisco.

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