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When you are traveling to the different Disney Parks worldwide, for most visitors, only Shanghai Disneyland will require you to get a visa. All that I will write below is based on our own experience. Some of it can be related to your own visa opportunities. In any case, I advise you to always check with the airline you are traveling with and the embassy/consulate of China.
The search for a visa for China was complex, I hold a Dutch passport and Christina an American passport. We quickly found that applying for a Chinese Visa is a costly and timely endeavor. Next to that, not all online documents are clearly written and helpful. In the end, we settled on using a visa service in the Netherlands. This service would help us with filling in the documents, adding required papers and forms, ensure that the photos would be correct, and visit the Embassy of China to get the actual visa. This visa service would set us back about 450 euros. This includes the actual visa process and the processing fee by the visa service.
As often with Christina, she will keep looking for other options, even when we already decided for something. In this case, it saved us the above mentioned 450 euros.
144 Hour Visa Exemption Transit Policy
As of the publishing date of this article, China allows international travelers from 51 countries who will arrive at and leave from Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, or Guangdong to use the The 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy. It allows passengers from 53 countries or regions to transit in the above cities or provinces for no more than 144 hours (6 days) without holding a visa. There are a few rules you need to adhere to though;
Confirmed onward ticket
Passengers need to have a confirmed onward ticket with a confirmed seat. Also any visa that is required for the next destination need to already be applied for (when that is possible).
Inform your airline before arrival
Make sure you inform the airline before arrival that you would like to utilize the 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy. We did this at the airport in Tokyo and there were no issues. The ground stewardess knew what we were talking about and ensured everything was taken care of.
When you reach the dedicated desk for travelers using the 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy, you will be handed a card that you have to fill in. Each traveler in the party needs to fill in a card, even when you are spouses.
Leave from an eligible transit port
You must leave from one of the transit ports. The point of entry doesn’t need to be the point of departure. As long as you leave from Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, or Guangdong.
Third Country or Region
In order to you need to visit a third region or country before you return to your final destination. Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan count as third regions in term of immigration affairs. This means that when you travel from the US to China, you cannot directly travel back to the US. You first need to have at least one additional destination. An example;
- US > China > US = not valid for the 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy
- NL > China > Hong Kong > NL = Valid for the 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy
- DE > Hong Kong > China > DE = not valid for the 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy
- FR > Hong Kong > China > Japan > FR = Valid for the 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy
Useful Tips and Information
There are a few things to take into account when using the 144 hour Visa Free Transit Policy;
When we arrived at Shanghai (and this will be no different at any other arrival port) there was a dedicated line for travelers who want to use the 144 Hour Visa Free Transit Policy. In Shanghai signs were everywhere and they all had English on them. The desk itself was not manned. When we approached the front of the line, we were asked to sit down and already fill in some paper work and hand them our passports. Within five minutes the immigration officer came back, processed the paperwork, took a photo and fingerprints, stamped our passport and we were on our way. All this took less time than the normal immigration lines.
The immigration officer and his colleague spoke extremely good English. We never felt uneasy or lost. They were really nice and didn’t question us.
You need to have a printed itinerary, showing all your flights (including ticket numbers and seat numbers) and hotel reservations (including check-in/check-out date and address). We had a few copies of these documents with us. We noticed that the immigration officer in China and the ground stewardess in Tokyo appreciated this. It saved them from making copies and they knew we read up and did research on the policy prior to arrival. We never had an issue with our e-tickets.
We read on some sites that it is required that everybody’s name is on the hotel reservation in China. This was not the case for us (we just forgot) . We were not asked about it by the immigration officer. Still, it is better if you take care of this before you arrive in China. At least you have proof that you are staying there. When the immigration officer calls the hotel, they can also confirm this.
Register with the local police
This only applies when you are not staying at a hotel; you need to register at a local police station within 24 hours. As we stayed at a hotel (the Toy Story Hotel) there was no need for us to follow this rule. The hotel will do that for you. If you are staying with friends or family, don’t forget to register.
A sticker in your passport will that you are using the 144 Hour Visa Exemption Transit Policy. The sticker will show when you arrived and by when you should leave. When you leave, a stamp is placed next to the sticker confirming that you left.
Staying longer, travel outside 144 hour Visa Free Transit Policy area
If you have to stay longer, or you need to travel outside of the designated area; you need to go to the local Public Security Bureau and apply for a normal visa.
Immediate return to country of departure
One of the requirements of the 144 hour Visa Free Transit Policy is that you have to travel to a third country or region prior to returning to your country of departure, it is not an issue when a situation arises where this is necessary. As long as you leave before the deadline, this is normally no issue.
Actually more hours
The layover time is limited to 144 hours. But it is good to know that the 144 Hour period will only start counting at 00:00 of the day following your arrival. This means that if you arrive at 13:00 on Wednesday, the clock for the 144 hours only starts counting at 00:00 on Thursday. This effectively can give you up to 144 + 24 hours = 168 hours, give or take the moment you arrive in China.
In Case of Doubts
In case of any doubts; always(!) check with your airline that facilitates your entry and departure from China and the Embassy/Consulate of China and read-up on the immigration website.