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If you fly into Shanghai (and plan to fly out from there as well) and enter on a 144-hour visa exemption, and then take the Train to Beijing to spend the time there, what would the consequences be if checked by the authorities?

Would you be deported from the country, or simply sent back to Shanghai?

How likely is it even that a police officer would ask a Western tourist to go to the hotel with them so they can check the passport?

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    "ask a Western tourist to go to the hotel with them so they can check the passport". You're required to have your passport and visa on you at all times. This is by far not limited to China either, but the standard rule if you're traveling. – Voo Aug 8 '16 at 22:58
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    @Voo Been to lots of countries and never had my passport (only my ID Card) on me. Never an issue when dealing with bars, Train staff or even Police. The one exception so far being Japan, where Police regularly checks passports for the entry sticker (which I knew about - so I do always carry my passport there) – Crazydre Aug 9 '16 at 0:14
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    Congratulations on being lucky. (in the EU national ID cards of member states are recognized in other member states, so that's fine). Yes you can get lucky and the police will accept your national ID, but they don't have to. I've been stopped by police while driving in China and they accepted my national license and didn't even want to see my international license. Doesn't mean that it's legal to drive without an international drivers license in China. – Voo Aug 9 '16 at 7:56
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Something to keep in mind here: Foreigners must register where they are staying in China. Normally the hotel does this for you--but note that this means the government computers have everything they need to catch you if they have thus programmed them. Whether they have nor not I do not know.

Being caught on the street is a trivial risk compared to this. Over the last 20 years I've spent a total of well over a year in China and the closest thing to a contact with the authorities that we did not initiate was a cop shooing away a persistent merchant who thought my wife was a good sale walking away. However, in all that time there have only been about half a dozen nights where the government didn't know where we were staying and that was only because we had checked into small hotels in the company of Chinese citizens and only their ID was presented. (A matter of negotiation, not trying to hide from the government. They would give locals a better rate than they would give foreigners.) Since you're doing a TWOV I very much doubt you have relatives to do the checking in and I would expect that wouldn't work in a big place anyway.

Note, also, that you say about going to the hotel to check the passport--technically you're always supposed to have it with you. In practice, though, this is widely violated.

  • +1, I second all of this and was about to answer the same. Also for the train to Beijing you need your passport and while your visa is likely not checked there (not by police, only train staff), it for sure also is stored in some government computer. In any case, trying this potentially leads to big trouble (I would guess detention and a visa ban) and that's just not worth the money you save for the visa. Official info here: sh-immigration.gov.cn/listPageEn.aspx?lx=40&id=4414 which says at least you're free to venture in the Yellow River Delta. – mts Aug 8 '16 at 18:30
  • "Note, also, that you say about going to the hotel to check the passport--technically you're always supposed to have it with you" I never carry it with me except of course when travelling to/from another Region. I do carry my ID card, which contains exactly the same info as the ID page of my passport. When going into bars, buying train tickets and checking in at hotels (except in countries where the hotel registers my visa) it's always been sufficient. To be fair, I haven't been to China so don't know if it would work there – Crazydre Aug 8 '16 at 18:34
  • @mts I didn't count the train because in our one recent experience with it the clerk had so little understanding of passports that I don't think they could have matched it against our immigration records. – Loren Pechtel Aug 8 '16 at 18:34
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    @Crazydre I would be surprised if you could check into any hotel in China with a EU ID card. They check passport and visa and report that to the local bureau of I don't know what... – mts Aug 8 '16 at 18:35
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    @Crazydre A foreign ID card is generally not adequate in China in any situation where they ask for a passport. I routinely have to show mine at an internet cafe despite the fact that I'm using an account that is already tied to my passport. As for trains--they very reluctantly accepted my wife's ID in lieu of passport when our plans fell apart badly--but she's a native speaker and the rest of us all had proper ID. Alone and not fluent in Chinese I very much doubt she would have gotten a train ticket. – Loren Pechtel Aug 8 '16 at 18:40
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If you are going to central Beijing, this area is quite different to the rest of China. Security around Tiananmen Square is very tight, and all pedestrians in the area are searched airport-style in large white tents that block the pavement. Here you will be required to present identification (in the form of either a Chinese ID card or a valid passport) before you can get into the main tourist parts. Museums and major places also demand passports to gain entry; as I recall the National Museum of China took my passport away for several minutes of inspection before they allowed me entry.

Most of this work is undertaken by surprisingly young members of the People's Liberation Army rather than by police, and usually they are not interested in your visas, but just want to confirm your picture. Still I am sure they would refer any irregularities to their superiors.

Personally I would strongly discourage you from breaking the rules; a Chinese visa is cheap and easy to obtain. The consequences for breaking the visa conditions may be expulsion from China via the nearest airport, at your expense (after a brief period of detention) and a five year ban. It is, in my opinion, a mistake to think of China as a westernised place where minor infractions of the law by foreigners will be tolerated.

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    Not that cheap if you're an American. They play tit-for-tat, last I knew the visa was $140 plus they do not offer mail service--you either go to a consulate or pay a visa company. (This is also a tit-for-tat because Chinese applying for a US visa have to have an interview.) All told it's close to $200 to get visas, although these days they're good for 10 years. – Loren Pechtel Aug 8 '16 at 23:03
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    There's a huge number of questions here, primarily asked by people in the developing world, that make it clear the west is hardly a place of sweetness and light when it comes to playing games with your visa. – Dan Neely Aug 9 '16 at 0:02
  • Also: "they play tit-for-tat" or, as some of the rest of the world sees it, the US keeps making unilateral decisions about how to interact with the rest of the world, and one reasonable mode of recourse the rest of the world has is to apply those decisions right back to it. – MadHatter Aug 9 '16 at 6:04
  • The more diplomatic word for it is reciprocal fees (in case you want to google it). – Burhan Khalid Aug 9 '16 at 7:22
  • @DanNeely An astute point. – Calchas Aug 9 '16 at 10:09

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