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I am a citizen of one of the countries (France) eligible for a 144-hour visa-free transit in some areas of China. I am reading conflicting information on whether I must have an interline ticket or whether any onward ticket suffices (assuming the ticket has a seat number on it and a confirmed date, both of which are required, at least in theory).

E.g. beijing.gov.cn states:

An onward ticket with confirmed seat is needed

while china-briefing.com states:

An interline ticket (connecting ticket) with the confirmed departure date and seat number leaving for a third country or region within 144 hours

and https://en.nia.gov.cn/n162/n227/c58964/content.html states:

Foreign nationals applying for 144-hour visa-free transit shall hold a valid passport or other international travel documents, interline tickets with confirmed date and seat to leave for a third country (region) within 144 hours, fill landing card for foreigners in transit, and accept inquiries from the entry-exit frontier inspection station.

So what do we need? Does any onward ticket suffice? Or does it have to be an interline ticket (i.e., a connecting ticket)?


Follow-up question: Am I allowed to leave Mainland China without using the onward ticket used to get visa-free entry (I'll leave in due time)? If so, must I notify anyone?

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    I have used this in Beijing when I had an independent onward ticket. I don't recall that it was even checked. Of course, one example proves nothing; I might have just been lucky.
    – badjohn
    Nov 15, 2023 at 21:34
  • @badjohn I've used it twice in Shanghai and they did check for evidence of an onward ticket both times.
    – reirab
    Nov 16, 2023 at 22:36

2 Answers 2

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The wording is ambiguous.

The policy in Chinese states that a 联程客票 (联=connected;程=journey;客=passenger;票=ticket) with confirmed date and seat is needed. In its basic sense, it means a connecting ticket.

What may be confusing is that 联程, or rather 联程机票 (机=飞机=airplane), is also a term specifically used for connecting flights on the same itinerary (one ticket number), issued by the marketing airlines or a travel agency.

The meaning of an onward ticket appears to be more appropriate here, considering:

  • I cannot find on any government website, e.g. in FAQs., where they explain the term to have the specific meaning in the aviation sector. The only specification is that the ticket must be confirmed before arriving in China.
  • this interpretation is consistent with the wording of the policy which is independent of transportation means. In fact Beijing West railway station and Shanghai/Tianjin cruise ports are explicitly included as where 144-hour visa-free transit policy applies. One of the first cases reported by the state news agency was an American couple who arrived in Shanghai by cruise and left by air.
  • this is also consistent with some experiences posted online.
  • it is the wording used by IATA database:

Nationals of France with a confirmed onward air, cruise or train ticket to a third country within 144 hours, starting from 00:01 on the day following the day of entry. They must:

  • arrive at and depart from one of the following locations: Hangzhou (HGH), Nanjing (NKG), Ningbo (NGB), Shanghai: Hongqiao (SHA) and Pudong (PVG), Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, Shanghai Wusongkou (Baoshan) International Cruise Terminal or Shanghai Railway Station; and
  • have documents required for the next destination.

However, as with all such policies, the airline or ground staff, especially for non Chinese airlines or less experienced ones, may nonetheless disagree with this interpretation, and opt to instead require a through ticket. This may be a risk you need to take.

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  • The alternative to taking risks is to get a regular Chinese visa, which is reasonably straightforward and not terribly expensive. Nov 17, 2023 at 5:22
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I can answer from previous experience using the Transit Without Visa (TWOV) in Beijing and Guangzhou: I had each time two different tickets, on different reservations (going to PEK/CAN with CX, leaving with KE or OZ).

I printed out both tickets and showed that both in HKG (so that CX staff would let me fly) and at Immigration in the Mainland. The unexpected plus was that there was a special line for TWOV, with fewer people.

I haven't done a TWOV since Covid (I got myself a Chinese visa ASAP), so can't confirm this is still the case.

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  • This is a useful answer. But what is TWOV? Can you clarify that? Nov 16, 2023 at 13:37
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    @AstorFlorida Transfer WithOut a Visa :-) That's the official name of that scheme.
    – dda
    Nov 16, 2023 at 14:42
  • Thanks for adding that! Nov 16, 2023 at 20:11
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    It had a separate line at PVG, too (at least before Covid.) The downside was that, in one of the two times that I used it there, that line wasn't open yet and I had to wait around a while for them to get someone to open it. In the other case, the line wasn't terribly long (maybe a dozen or so parties,) but it moved rather slowly (I waited something like 45-60 minutes.)
    – reirab
    Nov 16, 2023 at 22:44
  • The weird part is, one of the reasons you have to notify the airline that you will use the TWOV is so that Chinese Immigration knows, and is ready for you when you land... I guess in their own time... :-)
    – dda
    Nov 17, 2023 at 7:13

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