No Visa Needed For Visiting China For 72 Hours

by Passrider on January 21, 2013

Shanghai, People's Republic of China WaterfrontEffective January 1, 2013, the People’s Republic of China announced that it is now possible for citizens from 45 countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, theUnited States and the United Kingdom, to visit Beijing (PEK) and Shanghai (PVG and SHA) without getting a visa before arriving at the airport. This is possible as long as your trip is 72 hours or less and you follow some pre-set rules.


Prior to this rule, you had to have a ticket for an international flight out of China and have your connection flight within 24 hours and you could not leave the airport.

This was done to help to increase the number of tourists that can visit the country for sightseeing purposes. Other countries such as the United Arab Emirates have similar protocols in place for similar reasons. Please note however, that your airline may still not allow you to travel as they are the ones that get fined if you don’t have a visa. So check with your pass office as to what is the rule.

People's Republic of China The Forbidden City

While this is really good news, I did ask a consulate official, what happens if as an airline employee you don’t make your flight at the 72 hour mark. He advised that he does not know what will happen as the Immigration official at the two ports of entry would deal with that on a case by case basis. I have found out though that it would be necessary for you to apply for a visa from the Municipal Public Security Bureau; similar to the National Police in most countries. I’m sure you will be given the procedures once this happens to you, if it ever does.

There is additional information about the 72-hour rule at


So my recommendation would be to check your loads, get back up tickets for alternate routings or get a visa before leaving your country of origin. This way you do not have to worry about it.


Chinese visas have to be requested from the office that is in your region.  You can see the regions mapped out here. Luckily they have an office in Houston, TX, that covers the south. You can visit in person or have someone apply on your behalf.


You can find more information about obtaining a Chinese visa via the information from the regional offices for your states below:


The instructions are pretty much the same for all offices; get passport photos, fill out the form, have your return ticket ready as well as the fee.  There is usually no appointment necessary and you may be able to receive the visa same day if you pay an expedite fee; just check with the individual consulates. In addition, you can get a multiple entry visa, if you check the correct box on the form as its the same cost.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Nonrevelite February 11, 2013 at 2:49 am

I would urge caution about trying this, unless you have verified with the airline you are traveling on that they will let you travel without a confirmed return ticket.


avatar Kerwin McKenzie May 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Good solid advice. The airlines do not want to be fined, so they may not board you as J-Rock advised.



avatar J-ROCK April 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I just flew to PEK using the new 72 hour visa-free rule.

You MUST have a confirmed ticket or they will not let you board in the USA.
They will verify.
I did have a confirmed ticket so no issues….


avatar Kerwin McKenzie May 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hi J-Rock,
Thank you for this piece of information.



avatar Kerwin McKenzie December 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Thanks J-Rock, that makes sense; its really depends on the airline on which you are traveling I suppose.


avatar Kim B February 18, 2016 at 1:51 pm

I am trying to verify if I need a confirmation number or an actual seat assignment to use the 72 hour rule.  As a standby passenger I will not have a seat confirmed.  I was looking to go ORD-Hong Kong  or ORD- Shanghai. 


avatar Kerwin McKenzie March 24, 2016 at 4:07 am

Yes you do Kim.
This rule is typically only for confirmed seats.
Also, the airlines won’t let you leave your origin without a Chinese Visa anyway.



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