Visa policy of China

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An L Type Chinese visa for tourists (issued in San Francisco)
Chinese X1 visa for long-term (more than 6 months) study, issued in Manchester
Entry stamp
Exit stamp
Entry and exit stamps (port of entry and exit was Shanghai Pudong International Airport).

Visitors to the People's Republic of China must obtain a visa from one of the Chinese diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries. The two Special Administrative Regions – Hong Kong and Macau – maintain their own independent border control policy and thus have their own visa requirements.[1]

A Chinese visa is issued by the Chinese diplomatic missions to a foreign passport holder, which authorizes him to enter and depart or transit through China.[2] Due to the separate border control policies, ordinary Chinese visas are not valid for entry to Hong Kong or Macau, so travelers must apply for Chinese visas for Hong Kong or Chinese visas for Macau should they require a visa for travelling to these regions.

The government of the People's Republic of China allows citizens of some countries (see below) to travel to Mainland China for tourism or business purposes for up to 15 or 30 days without having to obtain a visa. Most foreign passport holders travelling to China, however, are required to hold a visa due to the lack of visa-free travel agreements. In order to boost tourism, some ports of entry of China allow certain nationals to visit specified regions within 72 or 144 hours if they are in transit to a third country (see "Visa-free transit" below). In 2014 the PRC government announced its intention to sign mutual visa-free travel agreements with as many countries as possible.[3] Among these agreements, China agreed to issue L tourist visas, M business visas, Q2 relative visit visas, and S2 private matters visit visas to U.S. citizens valid for a maximum of 10 years.[4]

Eligible nationalities for visa-free entry[edit]

Visa policy of China for holders of ordinary passports

Citizens holding passports issued by the following nations are not required to obtain a visa to travel to China on a trip as long as it lasts no more than the visa waiver limit as listed below.

Ordinary passports[edit]

Country Duration of stay Effective date Remark Citation
1  San Marino 90 days 1985/7/22 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 1985/5/6 [5]
2  Brunei 15 days 2003/7/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy [6]
3  Singapore 15 days 2003/7/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy
Suspended from 1 July to 19 September 2008 for the security of 2008 Beijing Olympics
[6][7][8][9]
4  Japan 15 days 2003/9/1 Unilateral visa waiver policy [10]
5  Seychelles 30 days 2013/6/26 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/5/6 [11][12]
6  Mauritius 30 days 2013/10/31 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/8/29 [13][14]
7  Bahamas 30 days 2014/2/12 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2013/12/19 [15][16]
8  Fiji 30 days 2015/3/14 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2014/11/12 [17]
9  Grenada 30 days 2015/6/10 Mutual visa waiver agreement signed on 2015/2/25 [18][19][20]

Ordinary passports (endorsed "for public affairs")[edit]

Diplomatic and official/service passports[edit]

Visa policy of China for holders of various categories of official passports
  China
  Diplomatic, official, service or special passports
  Diplomatic, service or special passports
  Diplomatic, official or service passports
  Diplomatic or service passports
  Diplomatic or official passports
  Diplomatic or special passports
  Diplomatic passports

Holders of passports issued by the following countries are allowed to enter and remain in China for up to 30 days (unless otherwise noted).[42]

D — diplomatic passports
O — official passports
S — service passports
Sp — special passports

Seaman Book[edit]

Holders of Seaman Book issued to nationals of the following countries are allowed to enter with it instead of a passport.[44]

  •  Lithuania
  •  Poland
  •  Russia (in addition, holders of an identity certificate for suite stewards on international trains can enter visa-free)
  •  Ukraine

APEC Business Travel Card[edit]

Citizens of the following countries who possess an APEC Business Travel Card which states on the reverse that it is valid for travel to China can enter visa-free.[45]

APEC Business Travel Card is issued to nationals of:[46]

Remark:

Entry procedures for residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan[edit]

Although Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR are constituents of China, they have their own immigration policies which are different from the rest of China and individual border controls that separate the territories from Mainland China. Mainland China, however, does not consider Chinese nationals with permanent resident status of Hong Kong and Macau travelling to China as international travelers, and hence their respective passports cannot be used when entering China. Therefore, residents of Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR who are Chinese nationals should apply for a Home Return Permit, an ID card like travel document, in order to enter Mainland China, regardless of whether arriving from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan or from overseas. This permit is valid for 10 years regardless of the purpose of entry, and can only be applied for through the China Travel Service in Hong Kong and Macau. Holder of this permit can remain in Mainland China indefinitely and take up employment.

The government of People's Republic of China (PRC) also does not recognize Republic of China (Taiwan) (ROC), and consider all territories of Taiwan as part of its own. Hence, travelling between Taiwan and Mainland China are not considered by PRC government as international travel. As a result, ROC passports are not accepted for entry and transit through Mainland China, and all ROC nationals are required to apply for a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents when visiting Mainland China. The Permit is valid for 5 years and allows the holder to remain in Mainland China for up to 5 years as well as unlimited visit to Mainland China. A 30-day stay for each visit to Hong Kong and Macau is also permitted with the permit. A single-entry travel permit can also be obtained from some ports of entry of Mainland China on arrival.[47]

The Home Return Permit can only be applied through China Travel Service (CTS) in Hong Kong and Macau, and the Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents can be applied in Taiwan through travel agencies in Taiwan, or through CTS in Hong Kong and Macau.

PRC nationals of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as ROC nationals, can apply for a Chinese Travel Document through the Chinese foreign mission if they are residing outside the Greater China region. The permit is valid for up to two years.

Residents of... Name of document Validity Number of entries Duration of stay
 Hong Kong Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents (Home Return Permit)[48] 10 years (for adults over 18), 5 years (for minors) Multiple Unlimited stay
 Macau Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents (Home Return Permit)[49] 10 years (for adults over 18), 5 years (for minors) Multiple Unlimited stay
 Taiwan Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents (Taiwan Compatriot Permit)[47] 5 years Multiple Up to 5 years
3 months Single 3 months

Other visa-free arrangements[edit]

Chinese Visa Waiver Programs

Tour groups[edit]

Citizens of following countries may visit China without a visa for up to 30 days if traveling as part of a tour group that is accompanied by a representative of a tour operator registered in both countries:[45]

Visa-free transit[edit]

24-hour transit[edit]

Visas are not required for any travelers who:

  • arrives and departs from an international airport (except for Fuzhou Changle International Airport and Yanji Chaoyangchuan Airport, where all passengers in transit are required to hold a transit visa);
  • holds confirmed air ticket receipts to a third-country final destination outside Mainland China with assigned seats, and
  • departs Mainland China within 24 hours (if transiting through Urumqi Diwopu International Airport, passengers are permitted to stay in transit for a maximum of 2 hours, afterwards they need to either continue to other domestic transit points and depart China in the next 22 hours, or depart from Urumqi immediately in the 2-hour period on an international flight).[50][1]

The 24-hour transit rule allows multiple stops within Mainland China, as long as the traveler has a flight segment leaving Mainland China in 24 hours, so it's possible to enter through a port of entry in China, take multiple segments of domestic flights within China, and depart from a different port of entry in under 24 hours. Contrary to the transit rules of other countries, all travelers in transit are required to go through immigration even if they do not leave the sterile transit area, except for passengers arriving and departing from Beijing Capital International Airport where they can proceed directly to the transit area. Nationals of  Canada and  United States cannot use the multiple-stop transit within China if transiting through Tianjin Binhai International Airport, Weihai Dashuibo Airport, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, Xi'an Xianyang International Airport or Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport.[1]

This rule applies to most nationalities, including Chinese nationals who are in transit from a third country to a different destination outside Mainland China, except for nationals of  Republic of China (Taiwan) who cannot transit solely with their ROC passports and are required to hold either the Taiwan Compatriot Permit or the Chinese Travel Document even if they don't leave the airport or the transit area; British National (Overseas) travelling on a BN(O) passport (a Home Return Permit or a visa is required depending on holder's ethnicity); and holders of Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes or Macau SAR Travel Permit (also require Home Return Permits or visas).[47]

Nationals of these countries require a visa to transit through Urumqi:[1]

In addition , national of  Syria are not eligible for visa-free transit if transiting through Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.[1]

72-hour stay / 144-hour stay[edit]

Holders of passports issued by the following 51 countries do not need a visa for a 72-hour or a 144-hour[51][52] stay (duration of stay starts from 12:01 AM of the next day of arrival) if they are transiting through the following ports of entry, provided that they:

  • enter through a port of entry listed below;
  • hold valid passports and visas for the destination countries (if required), and
  • tickets for final destinations with confirmed seats departing in 72 or 144 hours.

Bruneian, Japanese and Singaporean passport holders are already exempt from visa requirements but can also utilize the scheme if they desire.

Travelers utilizing this scheme are only authorized to visit certain municipalities or provinces listed below, cannot leave the municipalities or provinces and must depart from the same port of entry, except for travelers who enters through ports of entry marked with # below, in which they can also depart from any port of entry marked with #.[53][54][55] In December 2014, the authorities proposed to extend the allowed stay to 96 hours and to allow all visitors when they transfer via Beijing regardless of nationality.[56] Starting from 30 January 2016, any travelers who enter through any ports of entry marked with # in the list below can stay in the permitted areas for up to 144 hours.[51]

Eligible countries[edit]
Eligible ports of entry[edit]
Port of entry Areas permitted to stay Effective date Reference
Beijing Capital International Airport Beijing 2013/1/1 [57]
Changsha Huanghua International Airport Hunan Province 2016/1/1 [58]
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport Chengdu 2013/9/1 [57]
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport Chongqing 2013/12/30 [59]
Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport Dalian 2014/1/1 [59]
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport Guangdong Province 2013/8/1 [57]
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport Guilin 2014/7/2 [60]
Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport# Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province 2014/10/20[61] [51]
Harbin Taiping International Airport Harbin 2015/8/1[62] [63]
Kunming Changshui International Airport Kunming 2014/10/1 [64]
Nanjing Lukou International Airport# Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province 2015/9/10[65] [51]
Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal# Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province 2016/1/30 [51]
Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal# Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province 2016/1/30 [51]
Shanghai Railway Station# Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province 2016/1/30 [51]
Qingdao Liuting International Airport Shandong Province 2015/11/16

[66]

Shanghai Pudong International Airport# Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province 2013/1/1[57] [51]
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport# Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province 2013/1/1[57] [51]
Shenyang Taoxian International Airport Shenyang 2014/1/1 [59]
Tianjin Binhai International Airport Tianjin 2015/6/8 [67]
Wuhan Tianhe International Airport Wuhan 2015/5/1 [68]
Xi'an Xianyang International Airport Xi'an & Xianyang 2014/1/6 [69]
Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport Xiamen 2015/4/1 [70]

Region-specific visa exemptions[edit]

The Chinese government has implemented visa waiver schemes for foreign nationals travelling to particular areas of Mainland China.[71]

Visa-Free Group Tour to Pearl River Delta[edit]

All visitors to Hong Kong and/or Macao are able to visit the surrounding Pearl River Delta visa-free as long as the following conditions are fulfilled:[72]

Special Economic Zone Visa on Arrival[edit]

Visitors from most countries may obtain an entry visa when travelling to and staying solely in the three Special Economic Zones: Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Xiamen.[73] Visitors can only travel within these cities and cannot proceed further into other parts of Mainland China. Visa for Shenzhen is valid for 5 days, and visa for Xiamen and Zhuhai is valid for 3 days. The visa can only be obtained only upon arrival at Luohu Port, Huanggang Port Control Point, Fuyong Ferry Terminal or Shekou Passenger Terminal for Shenzhen;[74] Gongbei Port of Entry, Hengqin Port or Jiuzhou Port for Zhuhai;[75] and Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport for Xiamen.[76]

Nationals of the following countries are ineligible for the SEZ visa:[77]

Hainan Province[edit]

Group Tour Visa Waiver[edit]

Nationals of the following countries can visit Hainan Island without a visa for no more than 15 days if they are visiting as part of a tour group organised by a travel agency approved by National Tourism Administration and based in Hainan with a party of 5 or more people:[78]

Nationals of countries marked with # can stay for up to 21 days with a tour group of a minimum of 2 people.

Visa on Arrival[edit]

In addition, citizens of countries which have diplomatic or official trade relationships with China can get a visa on arrival when entering Hainan and can stay for at most 15 days.[79]

Border area[edit]

Visa for Hong Kong Non-Chinese Residents[edit]

Non-visa-exempt nationals who are residents of Hong Kong require a visa to visit the Mainland. Hong Kong Permanent Residents may apply for a 3-year multiple entry visa. Hong Kong non-Permanent Residents can apply for a 1-year multiple entry visa. In most cases the length of stay for each individual trip is one 30 days. For non-Chinese Nationals, currently it is not possible to apply for a resident visa for Mainland China based on the applicant's status as a Hong Kong Permanent Resident.

Visa-on-arrival for emergency purposes[edit]

Airports[edit]

Nationals who would normally require a visa are able to obtain a visa-on-arrival at the following airports, as long as arrangements have been made prior to arrival into China, and confirmation has been received from the Entry and Exit Division of the local Public Security Bureau that a visa will be issued on arrival.

Overview of Chinese visas[edit]

Process[edit]

If a foreigner (alien) intends to enter into, exit from or transit through Chinese territory, he/she must apply for a Chinese visa to the above-mentioned Chinese visa authorities, usually where they are located in countries outside China. This application does not need to be done in person, but for tourists the procurement of a Chinese visa usually requires presentation of the original ordinary (national) passport to the authority in question. The process nominally requires four days, requiring passports to be dropped off and picked up on separate days. However, for an extra fee, the process may be done in many embassies and consulates in a few hours during a single working day. Since passports do not need to be presented by the holder, some third parties will provide this service. A single person in a travel group may also submit and retrieve passports to obtain visas for the others, so long as the application paperwork and signatures are in order.

Visa application procedures for foreign nationals[edit]

Chinese L type 60-day visa affixed to a stamp page in a U.S. passport (issued in Los Angeles)

Visa nationals (persons not citizens of China) are required to apply for a Chinese visa at the Chinese foreign mission (embassy or consulate) or through an appointed visa agent, prior to entry into China. Nationals of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey must hold a visa issued in their home country. If visa is issued in a third country, a residence visa or working permit is also required. Holders of normal passports issued to nationals of Sri Lanka must hold a visa issued in their home country. If visa is issued in a third country, a residence visa or working permit is also required.

In the U.S., visa application requires presentation of a physical passport to the embassy, where the visa sticker is affixed. This process requires four days or so but may be done in a single working day for an extra fee. Cash and personal checks are not accepted as payment.

In some scenarios, it is possible to arrange for a visa upon entry into China.

There are currently four main categories of visas available: L (tourist), F (short term business/study), X (study) and residence permits, also called work (Z) visas.

There are also visa categories for spouses and children. L-visas are issued for any time between 14 – 90 days and can be extended in China twice for 30 days. F-visas are issued for either 1, 3, or 6 months, X-visas for 6 or 12 months and Z-visas for 12 months. In addition, only Q-visas need letters of invitation (from applicants' relatives in China).

As of 2014, a mutual agreement between the United States and China provides for an extended 10 year visa good for multiple entries over that time period.[85] In early 2015, China announced that multiple entry visa with the validity for up to nine years and 11 months (not exceeding the life of the passport) would be issued to Canadian citizens.

Types of Chinese Visa[edit]

There are different kinds of Chinese Visa which use Hanyu Pinyin signs.[86][87]

Code Type Note
C Crew Visa
(乘务签证)
Issued to foreign crew members of means of international transportation, including aircraft, trains and ships, or motor vehicle drivers engaged in cross-border transport activities, or to the accompanying family members[Note 1] of the crew members of the above-mentioned ships.
D Permanent Residence Visa
(定居签证)
Issued to those who intend to reside in China permanently. Chinese government starts to implement new permanent residency policy for foreigners to attract and introduce technical talents and experts since 2014/8/15.[88]
F Visit Visa
(访问签证)
Issued to those who intend to go to China for exchanges, visits, study tours and other activities.
G Transit Visa
(过境签证)
Issued to those who intend to transit through China.
J1 Long-term Journalist Visa
(常驻记者签证)
Issued to resident foreign journalists of foreign news organizations stationed in China. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.
J2 Short-term Journalist Visa
(临时记者签证)
Issued to foreign journalists who intend to go to China for short-term news coverage. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.
L Tourist Visa
(旅游签证)
Issued to those who intend to go to China as a tourist.
M Business Visa
(商贸签证)
Issued to those who intend to go to China for commercial and trade activities.
Q1 Family Reunion Visa
(家庭团聚签证)
Issued to those who are family members[Note 1] of Chinese citizens or of foreigners with Chinese permanent residence and intend to go to China for family reunion, or to those who intend to go to China for the purpose of foster care. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.
Q2 Family Visit Visa
(探亲签证)
Issued to those who intend to visit their relatives who are Chinese citizens residing in China or foreigners with permanent residence in China. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.
R Talent Visa
(人才签证)
Issued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China.
S1 Long-term Private Visit Visa
(长期私人事务签证)
Issued to those who intend to go to China to visit the foreigners working or studying in China to whom they are spouses, parents, sons or daughters under the age of 18 or parents-in-law, or to those who intend to go to China for other private affairs. The intended duration of stay in China exceeds 180 days.
S2 Short-term Private Visit Visa
(短期私人事务签证)
Issued to those who intend to visit their family members[Note 1] who are foreigners working or studying in China, or to those who intend to go to China for other private matters. The intended duration of stay in China is no more than 180 days.
X1 Long-term Study Visa
(长期学习签证)
Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of more than 180 days.
X2 Short-term Study Visa
(短期学习签证)
Issued to those who intend to study in China for a period of no more than 180 days.
Z Working Visa
(工作签证)
Issued to those who intend to work in China.

Validity, Number of Entries and Duration of Each Stay of Chinese Visas[edit]

1) Visa Validity ("Enter Before") means that the visa is valid, or can be used for entry into China from the date of issue to the "Enter Before" date indicated on the visa (Beijing Time). If a visa has unused entries, the bearer can enter China before 24:00 (Beijing Time) on the expiration date.

2) "Entries" refers to the number of times the bearer is permitted to enter China during the validity of a visa.

A visa becomes invalid if there are no entries left, or if there are entries left but the visa validity expires. If a visa becomes invalid, its bearer must apply for a new visa before entering China. Traveling with an invalid visa to China will result in refusal of entry.

3) "Duration of Each Stay" refers to the maximum number of days the visa bearer is permitted to stay in China each time, which is calculated from the date of entry into China.

A foreign citizen who overstays the end date of his/her authorized stay in China without going through extension formalities is subject to fines and other penalties for violation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Control of the Entry and Exit of Aliens and its Detailed Rules for Implementation. If a visa bearer is to stay in China longer than the duration of stay allowed on the visa, approval must be obtained from local public security authorities above the county level before the duration of stay expires. Approval of an extension of stay may or may not be granted. Please check the website of the local public security authorities in China for more information. Chinese Embassies and Consulates overseas are not authorized to extend a visa.

A bearer of a D, Q1, J1, S1, X1 and Z visa must apply for a residence permit at the local public security authorities within 30 days of entry into China. Members of foreign diplomatic or consular missions in China must apply for a residence permit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or local foreign affairs departments within 30 days of entry into China.

Region-specific visa restrictions[edit]

Tibet Autonomous Region[edit]

Foreign Passport holders entering Tibet must have a Tibet Travel Permit, issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Although any travel between Tibet and other party of mainland China is considered domestic travel and hence no immigration procedures take place (unlike Hong Kong and Macau where formal immigration procedures take place like crossing between two countries), this permit will be checked for all non-Chinese when going on board any buses, trains or airlines that are bound for the TAR. The only way to obtain a Tibet Travel Permit is to arrange a tour operated by a Tibet travel agent which at least includes hotels and transportation. Foreigners are also not permitted to travel by public buses across Tibet and are only allowed to travel by private transportation as organised in the tour. Moreover, if entering Tibet from Nepal, one must also join a group tour and be only allowed on a group visa. The Tibet Travel Permit has to be handed in to the tour guide upon arrival at the airport or train station, and the tour guide will keep the permit until the traveler leaves the TAR. The Tibet Travel Permit is also required by Taiwanese holding a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, but it is not required for Chinese citizens from Hong Kong or Macao holding a Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents.[89]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Family members" refers to spouses, parents, sons, daughters, spouses of sons or daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandsons, granddaughters and parents-in-law.

References[edit]

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  52. ^ China's Yangtze River Delta Now Offers 144-hour Visa-free Entry
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  55. ^ Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning 72-hour Transit Visa Exemption for Foreign Nationals Measure at Airports of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu
  56. ^ Beijing Plans to Attract International Tourists with Extended Visa Policy
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  58. ^ Changsha to offer 72-hour visa-free entry
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  60. ^ 桂林生活网. "桂林72小时过境免签7月28日起实施 边检做详细说明". 
  61. ^ 新华网. "杭州:航空口岸72小时过境免签". 
  62. ^ Harbin offers 72-hour visa-free entry
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  64. ^ 云南网. "72小时过境免签政策 方便国外旅客游昆明". 新华网云南频道. 
  65. ^ "Nanjing now Offering Transit without Visa 72 Hours for Foreign Visitors". 
  66. ^ iQTV-Qingdao News. "青岛国际机场口岸对51个国家的公民实施72小时过境免签政策". 
  67. ^ 北方网. "6月8日起天津将实施外国人72小时过境免签政策". 
  68. ^ 中国民用航空中南地区管理局. "武汉天河机场口岸即将实施72小时过境免签". 中国民用航空中南地区管理局. 
  69. ^ 西安市外事侨务办公室. "西安实行“72小时过境免签”". 
  70. ^ 厦门网. "51个国家的外国人过境厦门 即可免签停留72小时". 
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  80. ^ Where Amur connects Russia and China
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  82. ^ 3-day visa-free stay for Kazakhstanis in Chinese Tacheng
  83. ^ Kazakhstan citizens enjoy 72-hour visa-free services at Jeminay Port
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  86. ^ 申请办理中华人民共和国签证须知
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  88. ^ 中国新闻网. "中国正式发布实施"绿卡"制度 以吸纳外籍人才". 新浪新闻. 
  89. ^ Tibet Tourism Bureau Permit