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China offers a 72h visa free transit in many of its major cities, including Shanghai, when traveling from country A to B via China (to citizens of selected nations). (I.e. US -> Shanghai -> Tokyo is ok, but not US -> Shanghai -> US)

My question is, how about the following itinerary? (E.g. flying with emirates):

  • Italy -> Dubai -> Shanghai -> Dubai -> France

While A and B are different, I'm twice transiting in Dubai and they might just look at the last airport.

And bonus question: Italy -> Shanghai -> France (i.e. without layovers) should be OK or is EU somehow considered one country?

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    That's not really a transit, is it? – Michael Hampton Aug 11 '15 at 18:49
  • @MichaelHampton Well not exactly but seeing how far the rules can be stretched. China tourist visa is EUR100 and I'd like to avoid that if I can. Another common approach is: US->China->HongKong->China->US which counts twice as transits even if you just spend a few hours in HK. – mts Aug 11 '15 at 19:47
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    How does €100 compare to the cost of constructing a bizarre air itinerary? – Michael Hampton Aug 11 '15 at 19:48
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    I think we're right on point. You are proposing to do something other than transit on a transit visa. You are taking a serious risk of (1) being denied entry, or (2) finding yourself in a foreign jail cell. As a general rule, we do not encourage or support people to break laws here. – Michael Hampton Aug 11 '15 at 20:21
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    The reality is most countries afford their border officers a fair amount of discrestion, and frown quite heavily on deliberate attempts to abuse the rules. What you are doing may technically be within the law, but that doesn't mean they have to let you get away with it. – CMaster Sep 27 '15 at 12:17
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This is not a transit through Shanghai. The Chinese authorities will only care about where your flight to Shanghai originated, and, where your flight out of Shanghai ends. As you clearly have seen, the country you are arriving from must be different than the one you are going to. Since your itinerary has you arriving from and departing to the same country, this is not a transit trip.

Emirates will (should) check your visa before they allow you on the flight from Dubai to Shanghai. They do this because if you don't have a valid visa, the Chinese authorities will fine them and charge them with the cost of deporting you. If they know anything about their visas, they will know that you don't meet the requirements for a valid transit visa, and you will be denied boarding onto the flight from Dubai to Shanghai.

If Emirates fails to stop you from getting on the flight, when you arrive in Shanghai you will be denied a transit visa. This can result in several things as mentioned in comments. This includes potentially large fines and/or indefinitely jail time until your certain deportation.

  • Thank you, this answers my question. I.e. what counts is the country the actual flight into/out of Shanghai was taken from/to, not the original/final country of origin/destination. Would you say though, that the second itinerary in my question is ok, i.e. Italy->Shanghai->France on direct flights? – mts Aug 12 '15 at 7:25
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    I haven't been able to find anything definitive on that. Technically it's twi different countries, but, you are right to be concerned about them sharing a common visa scheme. I think the best answer would be to call the Chinese embassy/consulate and ask. – Matthew Herbst Aug 12 '15 at 15:37
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I found this link to contain information (sometimes with a focus on U.S. citizens) with great detail.

It clearly states that for the 72h vise-free transit it counts the country of the last airport you transited in, i.e. the above itinerary via Dubai would not be valid.

UPDATE: also this link gives a great depth of information and confirms the above.

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