How to get a 72 hour China visa.
How to get a 72 hour China visa.

I have on two occasions “bopped” into Beijing on a 72 hour visa and it was fantastic both times. My first time was very soon after China started allowing these visas and I was extremely worried because I would be entering China without even having booked my flight out of China. But instead of being tossed out, I was whisked through. I was the only one in the 72 hour line and that meant I got into China faster than all but a few who already had a longer term visa. The second time was not dissimilar. But the rules for 72 hour visas are complicated and somewhat limited.

The lawandborder blog though has all the answers, in its aptly titled post, China’s 72-Hour Visa Waiver Program (Updated). The post lists the following cities as qualifying for the 72 hour visa:

  • Beijing
  • Chengdu
  • Chongqing
  • Dalian
  • Guangzhou
  • Guilin
  • Hangzhou
  • Kunming
  • Nanjing
  • Shanghai Pudong and Hongqiao airports
  • Shenyang
  • Tianjin
  • Wuhan
  • Xiamen
  • Xian

The key thing to remember about these visas is that you are not allowed to go outside of your entry city. In other words, if you enter into China on a 72 hour visa in Beijing, you are not supposed to go even to Tianjin. The rules are now clear that you are required to have “a ticket proving an onward flight from the same China city to a ‘third country or region’ (not the originating country and not in Mainland China) with a confirmed date and seat within 72 hours of arrival. The arriving and departing tickets may be on different airlines. If required, you must also possess a visa for the third country or region.” But like I said, the first time I entered with a 72 hour visa I had no such return ticket and I was never asked about it. I do not even recall being asked the second time either, though of that I am not certain.

Anyway, if you want to get more details about China’s 72 hour visa rules, I strongly recommend you go here and read all that is in the main body of the post, plus the questions asked (and answered) in the comment section.


Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog ( Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.