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I understand the (144 and) 72 hour hour visa-free transit program in China is restricted to departing on an international flight from the same city as you arrive in. (24 hour program lets you do basically anything to get through the country.)

On MF857 the plane departs Xiamen at 18:00 but stops at Qingdao from 20:25 to 22:25 from where it continues directly to LAX. If the layover in Qingdao were between separate flight numbers and planes, it's clear it would not qualify.

  • How are same-plane, same-flight-number flights like MF857 counted?
  • Does China do exit controls on such flights? If so, where do passengers pass the exit immigration controls: in the first city they originate in or in the aircraft's final stop in China (requiring passengers to leave the plane and come back)?

In the case in this screenshot, the flight would still qualify for the 24 hour rules (since the departure from Qingdao is 23h after arrival in Xiamen). What about in case of a longer layover in Xiamen: does the flight qualify the 72 hour program?

MF857 connection

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    This (unofficial?) page states "The flights can only stop in one Chinese city" so the second leg seems ineligible for the 72 hour thing. – RedBaron Oct 23 '18 at 11:27
  • Thanks for the link! Since the page has some strange (non-native) phrasing, I'm not convinced I trust the precision here. Adding some follow-up questions above to help clarify. – Carl Oct 25 '18 at 1:48
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    Another news item about the requirement of flight not transiting through any other Chinese city. The news report highlights this about such transits For the 72-hour visa-free transit, inbound and outbound flights must not transit through any other Chinese airports. – RedBaron Oct 25 '18 at 5:12
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You should consider a different set of flights because it does not look like your itinerary is eligible for the 72 hour visa free transit.

I cannot find official Chinese guidelines but multiple sources on the Internet allow us to form a summary. Sources - Travel China Guide, Travel China Cheaper,and a blog post. The consensus of all these is that the following must hold for a visitor to use 72 hours visa free transit (emphasis mine)

  • You must be national of one of the 53 qualified countries. US, Schengen, UK, Russia, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand are all included in this list.
  • You must be transiting in one of the following cities - Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, Xian
  • You cannot leave city limits during this period. There are some exceptions to this rule - E.g. passengers transiting in Guangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao, or Changsha are allowed to travel in the whole province.
  • Your itinerary must consist of flights from Country A to the designated Chinese city and onwards to a separate country/region C (within 72 hours). For this purpose Hongkong, Macau and Taiwan are all considered third regions so your flights are allowed to go there.
  • You can only use flights for entering and exiting China.
  • Inbound and outbound flights must not transit through any other Chinese airports.

The last point is emphasised by the news report about two kiwi citizens who had a harrowing time beacause their inbound flight had a (unannounced?) stop-over in another Chinese city.

To answer your specific questions:

  • How are same-plane, same-flight-number flights like MF857 counted?

There is an advisory article from a US immigration law firm which states explicitly

Your departing transportation must not make a further stop in China, even if you are not required to change planes. For example, Beijing -> Kunming -> Hanoi doesn’t qualify.

so I would say such a flight will not be counted as valid.

  • Does China do exit controls on such flights?

I think the broader issue here is if you will be issued the visa-waiver stamp when you land in China? If you present this itinerary and officials determine this is not valid (as outbound plane has a halt in another city), it is very likely they will refuse you entry and deport you back to Taipei.

To be safe, take a direct flight out of Xiamen to a third region (Japan?) and then onto LAX if you can't find a direct flight to LAX.

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