China has fully reopened its borders, promising recovery of international tourism and travel. Many of the visa-free travel policies that were in place prior to the pandemic have therefore come back into effect, enabling people from a wide range of countries to visit China on a short-term basis.
Countries with mutual visa exemption agreements with China
China has also signed agreements on mutual visa exemption with over 150 countries, which enables certain citizens to travel to China without a visa. However, for the majority of countries, visa-free arrangements apply only to diplomatic or official passports.
A few countries do enable visa-free travel to China for citizens holding ordinary passports. Citizens from these countries are allowed to travel to China without a visa for up to 30 days for the purposes of tourism, travel, business, and visiting family or friends.
These countries are:
• The Bahamas
• Bosnia and Herzegovina
• The Maldives
• San Marino
• The United Arab Emirates
Citizens from the above countries will still need to apply for a corresponding visa to China if they intend to work, study, or settle in China, or intend to stay for longer than 30 days.
Countries with 15-day visa-free travel to China
In the past, citizens with a valid ordinary passport from Japan, Brunei, and Singapore have been permitted to travel to China for a period of up to 15 days without applying for a visa for the purposes of tourism, business, visiting relatives and friends, or transiting to a third country. However, this policy was suspended since the end of COVID-19 restrictions in China.
On July 26, 2023, the 15-day visa-free travel to China policy was resumed for citizens of Brunei and Singapore while at the time of writing, it’s still not clear when this policy will be resumed for citizens of Japan. This means citizens from Japan still need to apply for a Chinese tourist, business, or another type of visa to enter China at this time.
Then on November 24, 2023, China announced that its 15-day visa-free travel policy was expanded to five European countries and Malaysia. During the period from December 1, 2023, to November 30, 2024, Holders of ordinary passports from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia may enter China visa-free for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends, and transit for no more than 15 days.
To note, citizens from these countries would previously also have had to apply for a visa in advance if they:
1. Expect to stay in China for more than 15 days; or
2. Intend to study, work, settle down, or attend an interview in China.
24/72/144-hour China visa-free transit
China allows eligible travelers from certain countries to enter and stay in certain areas of China for 24, 72, and 144-hour periods without prior application for a visa when transiting to a third country.
Note that people are excluded from this policy if they are:
• Not permitted to enter the country as stipulated by laws and administrative regulations (such as people who have been subject to sanctions or travel bans);
• Hold a passport or other international travel document that is valid for less than three months upon the time of arrival, or which has a refusal stamp from a Chinese visa issuing agency;
• Have records of illegal entry and exit, illegal residence, and illegal employment in China in the last five years; and/or
• Have violated accommodation registration regulations in the last two years and the circumstances are deemed serious.
144-hour visa-free transit
Under the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, foreign travelers can apply for a six-day entry permit to certain Chinese cities upon arrival at the port of entry, provided they hold a passport from one of the 54 eligible countries. They also must show that they are traveling to a third country after leaving China, which means they must show a connecting ticket to a third country when arriving in China. This is a great option for people who want to make a short stop-over to explore various areas of the country.
The 54 countries are:
• 25 countries in the Europe Schengen area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
• 15 other countries in Europe: Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Monaco, and Belarus.
• Six countries in the Americas: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile.
• Two countries in Oceania: Australia and New Zealand.
• Six countries in Asia: South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Eligible travelers can only apply for the 144-hour visa-free transit if they enter through one of the 29 designated ports of entry in 20 mainland Chinese cities. In addition, travelers are only allowed to travel within a certain area on the entry permit and exit the country through designated ports as well. People who travel outside the permitted area and exit the country through a non-designated port may face certain penalties.
Note: For accurate details, refer to the latest regulations from the local embassy.