Many people who are not actually visiting China but are traveling through it are confused about what their China visa requirements are, or if they are required to get a visa at all. There’s a nasty rumor going around that if you have a layover in China of more than 24 hours, you’ll need to obtain a China tourist visa. For American travelers, this isn’t the case. There’s a list of 45 countries who are allowed to transit through Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu for up to 72 hours without having to obtain any sort of China visa. Fortunately, the United States is on that list. If you hold a passport from a different country, check here to find out if you are also exempt from needing a visa during your layover.
If your layover is under 24 hours, you should not need any sort of visa regardless of your country of origin (barring any sort of sanctions). There are also a few other strange rules that will allow you to actually stop and visit in China without a visa. These include going on a tour of the Pearl River Delta or Hainan Island as part of an authorized tour group for less than six days.
Get Your Travel Documents in Order for Additional Security
That said, if you have plans to actually leave the airport and see China for any amount of time, you should definitely get a visa in order to keep yourself safe and secure.
The good news on that front is that China now offers a 10-year visa for business people and tourists from the United States and Canada. To apply for a China tourist visa, you’ll need to fill out a China visa application, have a passport photo, proof of your travel and hotel reservation. To apply for a China business visa, you’ll need to fill out a China visa application, have a passport photo, and an official invitation from your inviter in China with a “chop” on it. If you were ever a citizen of China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan, there are additional requirements, which you can check out on our visa portal.
Currently, attaining a China visa can take as little as three business days. The ten year visa allows US citizens to travel to China as often as they like for short periods, such as to visit family or on business. Once your passport expires, you can renew your passport, and travel to China with BOTH passports as long as the 10-year visa is still valid.
To learn more or to get your questions about layovers or short-term visas to China answered, contact Swift today. We are here to answer any questions you might have and to help you enjoy your travels around the world.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.