Overseas visitors to China generally require a visa prior to travel. But if you’re transiting through China on your way to another country, you may be allowed to stay for up to six days without a visa.
China’s Transit Without Visa (TWOV) program is available in most major Chinese cities. The rules vary slightly by city, but Australian citizens can stay in many cities for up to 72 hours in transit. A longer transit of up to 144 hours (6 days) is permitted in Shanghai and, as of late 2017, Beijing. Guangzhou will also soon be added to the list of cities offering a 144 hour Transit Without Visa.
To be eligible for the TWOV program, there are a few rules to be aware of. Firstly, you’ll need to be transiting through an eligible Chinese city en route to a third international country. If your onward flight returns to the same country from which you arrived in China, you will not be eligible for TWOV. But there is no requirement for the onward flight to be on the same ticket or even airline as your inbound flight.
There is no requirement for a ‘through airfare’… it is simply onward travel to a third country. As steady says, this must be non-stop inbound and outbound from China to the third country. Your onward travel can be separate tickets, separate airlines.
SYD-PEK-AKL, SIN-PEK-KUL and MFM-PEK-HKG are all valid examples under TWOV.
In most cases, you’ll need to arrive by plane and remain in the Chinese city where you arrived for the entire stay.
You must stay within the city, or regions covered by the particular TWOV entry permit issued on arrival. For most cities this restricts you to the administrative area of the city you arrive in. Shanghai and Beijing are different however as they are grouped together with other cities in regions.
Travel outside those regions is not permitted, and if you do you won’t be able to check-in to accommodation as hotels can’t register you.
The 72 or 144-hour transit period generally begins at midnight on the day after arrival. However, in some cities (e.g. Beijing) it is calculated based on the flight’s scheduled arrival time. Be sure to check the latest information prior to travel.
To use the TWOV program there is no paperwork required in advance. You will need to notify the airline when checking in for your flight to China. Upon arrival in China, you’ll need to complete an incoming passenger card and proceed to the Transit Without Visa counter. You must present details of your onward flight.
The TWOV program makes it relatively easy to visit China for short periods of time. Its primary purpose is to make it easier for Chinese airlines to carry international passengers through their hubs.
It is to allow Chinese Airlines to fly people from the likes of USA via Chinese Hub of PVG or CAN to BKK or SIN. Likewise Australians flying BNE via CAN to LHR.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: China TWOV questions