China enters into visa-free travel deals with 6 more countries

by Kim Boateng Posted on December 20th, 2018

Beijing, China : An agreement on mutual visa exemption between China and Qatar will take effect from Friday, according to an announcement made by the foreign ministers of the two countries. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Qatar.

Last Saturday, a visa exemption agreement between China and Niger came into effect.

A China-Botswana agreement on visa-free travel will also come into effect starting on Saturday, and it will be followed the next day with the start of the China-Rwanda visa-free travel agreement.

According to the latest data released by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China’s ordinary passport holders can travel to more than 70 countries thanks to mutual visa exemptions, visa-free destinations, and visa-on-arrival arrangements. This includes 13 countries where no visa is required thanks to bilateral visa-free travel agreements, including the United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sao Tome and Principe.

Middle East — United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

The newly listed United Arab Emirates, which no longer required visas for Chinese from January 16 this year, is a headline-grabbing destination that offers an intriguing blend of traditional Islamic culture and shopping heaven.

The UAE will exempt Chinese nationals carrying ordinary passports from obtaining pre-entry visas, with the possibility of staying for up to 30 days on each visit.

Bahrain is another Middle East country appearing on the list. It is an island country located in the Persian Gulf with mild climate and is also hailed as “Hong Kong in the Middle East.”

Since July 9th, Chinese citizens who hold diplomatic passport and official passport can stay in Bahrain for up to 90 days without a visa. Unfortunately, this is not extended to those holding the ordinary Chinese passport. For ordinary Chinese passport holders, they can enter Bahrain through a Visa-on-arrival policy.

Europe– Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ordinary Chinese citizens have been allowed to entry Belarus without visa since August 10th for up to 30 days, and less than 90 days each year.

As a close neighbor to China, Belarus is worth seeing for its renowned Lake Baikal, which attracts many Chinese tourists.

Bosnia and Herzegovina concluded the agreement on mutual visa exemption with China on May 29th, becoming the second European country to waive visas for Chinese citizens.

Bosnia and Herzegovina still bears the legacy of war, but urban centers of the country such as Sarajevo have rich history and lively nightlife. Sarajevo is becoming one of Europe’s most curious and unique capitals. The country has long been a place integrated with diversified cultures and customs.

Africa– Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe

Although the Gambia may be mainland Africa’s smallest nation, it punches way above its weight in terms of attractions.

Sao Tome and Principe is an island country in the Gulf of Guinea. The little-known islands provide unspoiled beauty and isolation from the world, in a way that’s now rarely found anywhere else.

Chinese tourism has witnessed significant expansion in recent years, and overseas countries have long been preferred destinations. Chinese passports have been regarded as more valuable ones for being granted with more and more favorable policies.

Other Transit Visa Exemptions in China: 24 Hour, 72 Hour, and 144 Hour Options

Foreign travelers transiting through China have several options for transit visa exemptions. These transit visa exemptions allow eligible foreign travelers a visa free visit for 24, 72, or 144 hours.

Although requirements for each transit visa exemption are different, each transit visa exemption stipulates that foreign travelers are only eligible when traveling through China between two different countries. Further, onward travel must occur within 24, 72, or 144 hours of arrival.

To obtain a transit visa exemption, travelers should review eligibility requirements, and confirm their eligibility with their local Chinese embassy. After confirmation, travelers must communicate their intention to obtain a transit visa exemption to their airline prior to travel. The airline will liaise with border control officials, who grant transit visa exemptions to travelers that meet requirements after verification.

In most cases, the transit visa exemption only allows the traveler to visit the province of their arrival. However, travelers entering China via Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Nanjing can travel within Shanghai, Zhejiang province, and Jiangsu province, and travelers entering via Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, and Qinhuangdao can travel within the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

The 24 hour Transit Visa Exemption

Foreign travelers transiting through China within 24 hours to reach another country of destination may be eligible for a 24 hour Transit Visa Exemption. This visa exemption is available to all foreigners, and most ports of entry in China.

The 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption

Foreign travelers transiting through China within 72 hours to reach another country of destination may be eligible for the 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption. This visa exemption is only available to citizens of participating countries traveling through participating ports of entry in China.

To obtain this visa exemption, the foreign national must have a valid passport from one of the 53 countries, which includes:

24 Schengen countries in Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland);
15 other European countries (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, UK, and Ukraine);
Six countries in North and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and US);
Two Oceanic countries (Australia and New Zealand); and
Six Asian countries (Brunei, Japan, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, and UAE).

Further, eligible travelers must be transiting through one of the following 19 cities: Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Harbin, Kunming, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, or Xi’an.

Notably, authorities continue to expand the list of cities where 72 hour Transit Visa Exemptions are applicable.

The 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption

Foreign travelers transiting through China within 144 hours to reach another country of destination may be eligible for the 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption. This visa exemption is available to citizens of countries that are eligible for the 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption; however, the number of participating cities is more limited.

To obtain this visa exemption, the foreign national must have a valid passport from one of the 53 countries that are eligible for the 72 hour Transit Visa Exemption. The 144 hour Transit Visa Exemption was first introduced to three cities in East China’s Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang area: Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing. As of December 28, 2017, the exemption was expanded to North China’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, namely: Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin, and Qinhuangdao.

Authorities have announced that the visa exemption will be expanded to South China’s Guangdong province, in the cities of Guangzhou, Jieyang, and Shenzhen.

Hainan Visa Exemption

Since May 1, 2018, visitors from 59 eligible countries can travel to South China’s Hainan province visa-free for up to 30 days.

Unlike other visa exemptions in China, visitors to Hainan enjoying visa-free access do not need to be traveling to a third country. However, they must book their visits via travel agencies registered in Hainan and approved by China’s National Tourism Administration.

To be eligible for visa-free travel to Hainan, visitors must hold a valid passport from one of the following countries:

25 Schengen countries in Europe (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 European countries (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Macedonia [FYROM], Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, the United Kingdom, Ukraine;
Six countries in North and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, the United States);
Two Oceanic countries (Australia and New Zealand); and
11 countries in Asia and the Middle East (Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and United Arab Emirates).

Confirm eligibility before departure

Travelers planning on visiting China with a visa exemption are advised to confirm their eligibility with the relevant port of entry in China or their local Chinese embassy/consulate before departure. The nature of the traveler’s itinerary and other factors may influence eligibility to qualify for a visa exemption.

Prospective travelers may also use a tool released by China’s State Council to determine their eligibility for a visa exemption based on their nationality and port of entry. The tool can be accessed here.

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