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Consider a traveler arriving by air in China from the United States who presents a passport from a country whose citizens enjoy a visa exemption in China. Citizens of this country do require a visa in the US, but this traveler has no such visa. Is the Chinese immigration officer likely to care about this?

Further consider that the traveler plans to leave China on a flight bound for India, yet the traveler also lacks the visa for India that citizens of her country should have. Is the Chinese passport inspector likely to ask questions?

If there is any questioning, the passenger would show her US passport and/or her Overseas Citizen of India document. The first explains the lack of a visa for the United States, and the second explains the lack of a visa for India. Would this satisfy the Chinese officer?

I have a fair amount of experience traveling with two passports issued by different countries, but I do not have any experience with Chinese immigration officers.

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    I assume the traveller in question is not born in China or of Chinese descent?
    – xngtng
    Jan 28 at 23:44

2 Answers 2

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Having passed through Chinese immigration hundreds of times, I have a little experience with this. I am French, and currently visa free.

The attention the officer will give to your passport is generally inversely proportional to his or her seniority. The younger, the more thorough. An officer with only one bar and one dot on the shoulders will look at every page, even blank ones, possibly twice. An older officer will flip through it quickly, shrug, and start scanning the passport's ID page and Immigration for. It never fails.

Also, women always seem to be a little more strict than their male colleagues. When entering Mainland China, if there are a few lines for foreigners, you can predict quite accurately which line is going to be slower...

Now, regarding entrance into China. They are generally not concerned about how you made it in and out of the previous country. They might be concerned about countries you visited before China, but that's about it. They don't care about dual citizenship (as long as one of them isn't Chinese), since they don't recognize it. For the duration of your stay in the PRC you will be a citizen of country X, even if you have another citizenship.

China and India have an uneasy relationship, to say the least, so inspection of not only Indian citizens, but also Indian-looking people always takes a little longer. As far as I could witness, it generally remains polite, but you can feel the increased attention (and the queue slowing down). But the questions are about the intended trip to China, lodgings, invitation, etc, not the immediate past.

When leaving, airline staff will ask you about a visa for India, and will probably be satisfied with your OCI card, but again, Immigration won't care. Exit checks are very fast for foreigners (if there's no issue like overstay). They check your entry stamp, visa if applicable, stamp your passport next the entry stamp, and send you in your way.

UPDATE

Today (February 1, 2024), for the first time in hundreds of HK<>SZ border crossings, I was asked by an Immigration officer, on exit, where I was going. But even so, she didn't ask for a visa or my HKID. No idea whether it was something she does every time, or was curious (she leafed through my passport twice looking at every page, too, so I suppose she's of the very diligent kind).

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    Some countries like to see (on entry) your plans for leaving the country, especially tickets, but sometimes also required passports/visas (so you don’t get “stuck” in their country), though it may depend on the circumstances (notably for transit or people with short visas), don’t you think they would care about that?
    – jcaron
    Jan 29 at 13:37
  • I can't speak for all countries, but in China, Immigration officers do these checks, on exit, for their own citizens: they check whether the travellers have the proper paperwork, and what their plans are. But for us foreigners, no interest whatsoever. In the hundreds of times I have passed through exit Immigration in China – including today – the officer was MUCH more interested in my long-ass hyphenated family name, and whether it was really me, than anything else. Checks for visas and the like at destination is done by airlines: if you make it to Immigration, they are satisfied.
    – dda
    Jan 29 at 14:52
  • I meant during entry immigration, to check that you can really leave the country within the allowed time.
    – jcaron
    Jan 29 at 15:04
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Citizens of this country do require a visa in the US, but this traveler has no such visa. Is the Chinese immigration officer likely to care about this?

No. You can use a different passport in the US then you use to enter China. I use my US passport when entering/exiting the US, but I can use my German passport to enter China (visa free) even if I'm coming straight from the US. The passport you present at entry ONLY needs to be valid for entry in the arrival country. Your dealings with the departure country is a completely different transaction that can be done with a different passport/document.

... India, yet the traveler also lacks the visa for India that citizens of her country should have. Is the Chinese passport inspector likely to ask questions?

No. The same reasoning applies. The passport you exit China with does NOT need to be the same passport you enter India with. Hence there is no expectation that the exit passport satisfies the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to.

However, the airline might check you out. If you are required to have a departure ticket, than they need to verify that you indeed have one when they check your entry credentials at check-in, especially if the exit is on a different ticket.

CAVEAT: China is a somewhat bureaucratic country and you never know what might pique an officer’s interest. In the unlikely case you will still get asked, the explanations you provide in your question should be more than sufficient. You are not doing anything wrong here.

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