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I have a conference to get to in Changchun (I really, really, really would like to go, the whole trip to China is centred around it).

I'm not able to get a visa in time though.

My flight lands in Beijing. And they'll allow me into the country since I'm a Canadian and "transiting" in Beijing between Turkey and Japan, therefore I get 72 hours without a visa.

However, I'm supposed to stay in Beijing the whole 72 hours. Of course if I drove out of Beijing and back in time for my outbound flight within 72 hours, to them it would be like I never left.

However my Chinese friend recommended against taking a bus to Changchun - he says buses in China are unreliable, can stop in the middle of nowhere anytime, etc.

So the other option is taking the train. They will check my passport. Will they be looking for a visa ? Will they know the rules ? I have an official, signed, very professional invitation letter from a big university, with the 公章 stamp, saying that I need to be there for a conference. My exit flight is within 72 hours. They know I'm not trying to illegally immigrate. Are they going to let me on the train ?

Are they going to ban me from ever entering China again ? (how do they even enforce such a ban ?)

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I think you could make this post clearer by setting more the difference between what you want to do and what you are supposed to do. For example, the title says you want to exit. You don't want that, you want to move through China with 72h TWOA –  Vince Sep 19 '13 at 21:38
    
Thanks. Title changed to "exit and re-enter". –  user1271772 Sep 19 '13 at 22:23
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Can I ask how you ended up in this pickle? How much time do you have until the conference, and have you talked to the local Beijing embassy about getting an expedited visa? Magic can happen if you're invited by a big enough name like Beida. –  jpatokal Sep 20 '13 at 0:10
    
I would advise you to apply for the visa. Takes some effort for China, but you are save. When I bought train tickets in Beijing, I had to show my passport, but I don't remember them checking the visa, I think they did. –  Bernhard Sep 20 '13 at 9:12
    
I'm able to get an expedited visa in Hong Kong (1 working day), although not sure about Canada. In your position I wouldn't risk leaving Beijing, since it would be very hard for you to visit China again if you got caught. –  Andrew Sep 20 '13 at 13:55
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1 Answer

The legal answer, as you've already found out, is "no":

4、Are the foreign visitors who completed 72-hour visa-free transit procedures and entered into China permitted to leave Beijing to other Chinese cities?

72-hour visa-free transit foreign visitors are not permitted to leave Beijing to other Chinese cities during their 72-hour visa-free stay. Visitors who have to leave Beijing to other Chinese cities due to force majeure must apply for visas at Beijing Public Security Bureau.

But if you're that desperate to go to the conference, I'd probably go for it anyway. Just don't blame me if you end up sentenced to 10 years of reform-through-labour at Gansu Red Star Toilet Roll Factory #4!

The train is unlikely to be a problem: your passport is checked for identification (= name matches ticket, picture matches face), not visa status, and besides, you'll have a perfectly valid 72-hour transit stamp in there even if they were to check. As you can see, it's very short on detail and doesn't say anything about where you can go:

enter image description here (courtesy some random Finnish guy via LoyaltyLobby.com)

In the unlikely event that somebody checks and knows you're not supposed to leave Beijing on a transit visa and cares enough to make fuss, you're still in Beijing and you can just plead stupid tourist ignorance.

The problem will be Changchun, and in particular, staying in a hotel overnight, since they will check your passport and visa, and they will likely wonder what's up if you only have a Beijing transit stamp. So either crash 'off the grid' at some local colleague's place if you can (legally they can host you for 24 hours before they need to report your presence to the PSB), find some dodgy room-by-the-hour place that couldn't care less about your ID, or take sleeper trains to/from Changchun.

The absolute worst case scenario would be getting stopped by the PSB in Changchun for a random check and getting busted for being outside Beijing. But short of being in a traffic accident or something this is unlikely, and from anecdotal evidence, I gather this usually results in a "tut tut" and being escorted to the nearest bus/train back to Beijing, not deportation or jail or anything silly like that, especially if you plead the "ignorant tourist" line and wave around your official invitation letter.

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