For several years China has offered a 72 hour transit without visa program, where you can transit select cities in China for up to 72 hours without requiring a visa. The catch is that you need to be in transit between two countries, meaning you need to be arriving from one country and continuing to another country (in other words, flying from the US to Shanghai and then back to the US two days later wouldn’t qualify for the transit without visa, since you’re not in transit… you’re simply flying back and forth to the same country).
Early last year China expanded the transit without visa program from 72 hours to 144 hours in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanjing.
It looks like this will be expanded to other cities by the end of the year. Per ecns.cn, Beijing’s vice mayor announced this week that by the end of 2017 there will be a 144-hour transit without visa program in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei. That’s great news for anyone who really wants to see Beijing on a layover, since three days isn’t really enough to see everything. I suspect this will be available to citizens of the same ~50 countries that are presently eligible for the transit without visa program.
Personally I really valued these transit without visa programs back when China only issued at most one year visas to US citizens. Having to renew a Chinese visa annually was frustrating, so I’d do anything I could to just pass through China enroute to a third country, rather than having to get a visa.
However, nowadays China issues 10 year visas to US citizens, so for repeat travelers there aren’t quite as many barriers to traveling to China.
Have you benefited from a transit without visa in China, or will you take advantage of the new 144 hour transit without visa?
(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)