Do I need a Chinese Visa if Im in Transit?
Replies: 32 - Last Post: Jun 24, 2013 11:08 PM Last Post By: arvinrux
Mar 28, 2011 3:21 AM
Do I need a Chinese Visa if Im in Transit?Hello,
I am a Canadian citizen with the below flight itinerary. Do I need a Chinese Visa if I plan on NOT leaving the airport?
Saturday, April 2, 2011
China Eastern Airlines 5701 Economy | Boeing 737 Passenger (737) | 2hr 15min | 783 miles
Depart: 1:15am Dhaka, Bangladesh Dhaka Zia International (DAC)
Arrive: 5:30am Kunming, China Kunming (KMG)
Change planes. Time between flights: 3hr 5min
Hainan Airlines 7212 Economy | Boeing 737-800 Passenger (738) | 2hr 55min | 1316 miles
Depart: 8:35am Kunming, China Kunming (KMG)
Arrive: 11:30am Beijing, China Beijing Capital (PEK)
Seat: 8C | Your flight is confirmed. Seat is confirmed. You may
Change planes. Time between flights: 4hr 50min
Hainan Airlines 495 Economy | Airbus Industrie A330 (330) | 10hr 45min | 5393 miles
Depart: 4:20pm Beijing, China Beijing Capital (PEK)
Arrive: 12:05pm Seattle, WA Seattle/Tacoma Intl (SEA)
Mar 28, 2011 4:16 AM
1Ask your airline.
Under normal circumstances people who don't intend to leave the airport do not need a visa. However, you are going to take a domestic flight between Kunming and Beijing. Other passengers taking that flight will not need to pass Immigration control, so it seems clear that Immigration will be between where you arrive in Kunming and where your domestic flight departs. However, the airline may have made special arrangements for passengers in your position.
Mar 28, 2011 7:05 AM
2Your total transit time in China is less than 24 hours at these airports, so no, you don't need a visa, but this is the oddball Chinese "double-stop" international transit with interstitial domestic segment, and yours is complicated by a change in airline en route. I can't speak to the physical arrangement at Kunming international arrivals, but at most other Chinese airports, at immigration there should be a desk marked "international transit" where you show your passport and onward confirmed itinerary which shows you are in transit. You'll get a transit stamp in your passport (which looks different than a normal entry stamp). Kunming does not get that many international flights and probably not too many passengers with your sort of situation, so it may not have a dedicated intl transit desk. I think you should immediately get an OK from China Eastern (MU) so that you get confirmation they will let you board the plane in Dhaka--from their point of view you are terminating in Kunming with them so you'll need to have the Hainan Airlines (HU) onward confirmed ticketing to show you don't need the visa. Try to get something in writing in advance, from somebody reasonably in charge of MU's Dhaka station. (I know, I know, like pulling teeth!) And get to the airport in Dhaka well in advance in case you need extra time to resolve this. The Chinese airlines (well, CA, MU, CZ at least) are pretty up to speed about the visa-free transit regulations and do have these double-stop situations on their own routings....I think your issue will be MU's distrust or discomfort with the airline change.
Perhaps if an MU person in Kunming arranges to hand you off to a Hainan Airlines person who can escort you to immigration, baggage claim and recheck, that would help. Highly unusual for this sort of service to be provided, but doesn't hurt to try. If you don't speak some basic Chinese, take along a bunch of patience.
I think if you get as far as Beijing, you should be OK. However, everyone or nearly so on your KMG-PEK flight will be domestic, while you may need special handling as an intl transit passenger. At some point, you are going to have to go through Beijing exit immigration to get stamped out before the SEA flight. Hainan Airlines should be able to help you out. Tip: your incoming and outgoing at PEK will be Terminal 2. However, T2 is light on eating options, so assuming you have all that connection time on your hands, you may want to take the free shuttle bus over to T3 where your landside options are better, then return to T2 for exit and security procedures.
Mar 28, 2011 7:10 AM
3One request: please report back after you get back to Seattle. I can't recall data points from anybody doing the double-stop transit through KMG + PEK, plus the airline change. Your experience could be very useful for future travelers. Thanks in advance.
Mar 28, 2011 8:12 AM
4For what's it worth, this is a consulate's write-up (dated 2008) on what the transit rules are (or were): http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/hzqz/zgqz/t84242.htm
Obviously, they did not consider the special situation of an alien traveling via 2 Chinese airports on a domestic flight. In this situation, I probably would prefer to stay on the safe side and get a transit visa from the PRC consulate in Dhaka (or wherever you are at the moment). But failing this... try to fly and tell us how it all ended up! Good luck!
Mar 28, 2011 8:33 AM
5Anything from 2008 is out-of-date, guaranteed. Not reflective of current reality.
I have first hand reports of people who've done double-stop transits in China so they are definitely legal and OK. But unfortunately none of them with KMG as one of the stops so that is a bit of an informational black hole. And none of them with this sort of airline change. I have secondhand reports of people who've done double-stops with airline changes in PEK, PVG, and CAN. All successful with no dramas at airline or immigration.
If the OP is anything but American, a transit visa (or standard visa, they're the same price) might be a safe option if he can get one issued wherever he is. However, for an American, $140 is a very steep price to pay for 12 hours transiting China. And that is indeed the cost of a transit visa for Americans, in which case, I personally would say screw it, and go for the visa-free transit.
May 4, 2011 6:04 AM
6Trying to sort out getting from Chiang Mai to Mandalay. One option is to fly CNX-KMG on MU2594 which arrives at 2200. There is then flight MU 2573 at 08:55 the following day.
Two questions: can I do a transit visa as am on the ground for less than 24 hours and what would it cost for a UK passport holder?
Presume VOA does not operate in Mandalay so I will need a visa from the Burmese embassy in Bangkok. Is that correct?
May 4, 2011 9:29 AM
7#6 you don't need a Chinese visa for this at all, not even a transit visa. The time frame of 22:00 - 08:55 falls within the 24 hour allowable limit. Have your MU tickets for both segments purchased and confirmed. MU should be able to assure you this is all OK. Most Chinese airlines are up-to-speed on the regulations.
Upon arrival in KMG, you'll go to immigration and get that special stamp which allows Transit Without Visa (TWOV) privilege. It will not cost you anything. This is not a "transit visa" so don't get confused. You can get a hotel overnight outside the airport---I'm not aware of any transit/sleeping rooms at KMG and they may even flush everybody out of the terminal in the wee hours, or corral you into a certain area. See if sleepinginairports.com has any insight.
You need to get that Myanmar visa in advance. The MU check-in staff in CNX as well as Chinese immigration in Kunming will almost certainly be looking for it. Probably should be one of the priority items on your list.
PS. There used to be an Air Mandalay nonstop flight twice a week CNX-MDY--did that completely go away?
May 4, 2011 7:06 PM
8Thank you for that excellent info.
The Air Mandalay flights CNX-MDL are sadly no more. The only other feasible options are Air Bagan CNX-YGN (3 days a week) then YGN-MDL; or CNX-BKK-YGN-MDL.
If your expertise stretches to Burmese visa issues there is another possibility. Cross from Mae Sai to Tachilek and then fly to MDL. My most recent info is that you cannot go more than 300kms from Tachilek and you leave your passport at the border. Shame as it would really open up northern Thailand/Burma (perhaps that's the problem!) Having said that I have heard that Burmese tour companies can arrange entry/exit via Tachilek/Mae Sai, but cannot track anything down.
Any pearls of wisdom?!
May 5, 2011 8:37 AM
9In the past, you could sometimes enter Mai Sai => Tachilek with a standard Myanmar visa obtained in advance, and go onward overland as far as Kengtung and vicinity, then fly to Heho (Inle) and then by land or air further westward. However, this was never a completely reliable method as it depended a bit on luck to have your crossing scheduled during the windows of opportunity when the Burmese gov't allowed it. I'm out of the loop on the current situation but can't recall hearing of any reports of success in the past 2-3 years--so I'm assuming that means a non-option.
It is true that tour companies can sometimes arrange special permission for you to enter/exit at selected land borders (as long as there is no fighting or unrest). However, it normally takes 1) money, sometimes quite a bit of it and 2) patience, usually 2-4 weeks to arrange by a Yangon-based agency. Whoever is manning the border does not have discretion to let you in, special permission is typically centralized in Yangon (or maybe now, Nyapidaw) directly from the government and without that permission (and probably somebody from the tour agency waiting at the border to meet and escort you), you'll be staying outside. There used to be a Kunming-based agency in/near the Camellia Hotel that could make the necessary prearrangements for the Ruili, China/Muse, Myanmar border crossing, but not sure if they are still around. And the cost rivalled that of just flying KMG-MDY.
I don't know how Myanmar is currently doing its visas, but in the past, if you were on any kind of prearrangements set up with a tour company (including special land crossing permission), you arranged that first and got paperwork from the tour company, then went to get the Myanmar visa.
I'm afraid when it comes to getting in/out of Myanmar right now, pearls are in short supply. If you haven't already done so, get over to the SE Asia Mainland forum and see what you can find.
Aug 15, 2012 6:53 AM
10I need an answer to this one myself. A travel agent advised me today to get a multiple entry visa when I thought single was sufficient for my one stopover. Here's my situation:
Flying from Oz on Oz passport on with one airline & one ticket return to Tbilisi- China Southern (ie all CZ flight codes)
3 flights are involved each way: Melb - Guangzhou - Urumqi - Tbilisi & then reversed on way back.
On way over to Tbilisi: one stopover in Urumqi for a couple of days.
On way back to Melbourne: no stopover but 7hr 20 min wait at Urumqi for connecting flight to Guangzhou, then after 3 hours fly to Melb.
My 7 hr stop in Urumqi is from morning to afternoon, but I doubt it's worth leaving the airport. Opinions welcome.
Aug 15, 2012 9:31 AM
Aug 15, 2012 8:32 PM
12The key to needing a visa or not is the timing. Connecting international-to-international through two Chinese airport with a domestic segment inbetween (the "double-stop" transit) is actually legal and allowed under Chinese regulations for international transits. The key is that the scheduled arrival in Guangzhou (CAN) to the scheduled departure from Urumqi (URC)--or vice versa--must be no more than 24 hours and that includes the domestic segment. If under 24 hours, you use Transit Without Visa privileges. If over 24 hours, you need a Chinese visa.
Therefore, on the outbound to Tblisi, a stopover of "a couple of days" in Urumqi is definitely going to put you over the 24 hour transit limit, and you will need a visa. On the return, your total transit time in China sounds like 10 hours and 20 minutes, clearly within the TWOV limits and therefore no visa is needed even with two stops.
#11 and the travel advisor are incorrect. You may do this trip on a single-entry visa, which you will use on the outbound journey. At MEL, your airline will inspect your visa and find you good to board. At arrival in CAN, you will go through standard immigration, get stamped into China on your visa, then proceed to baggage claim, Customs, and back up to departures for domestic connection. No special handling needed. You will arrive in URC as a domestic passenger, pick up bags and head out the airport to do whatever you planned to do during your stopover. Upon return to URC for Tblisi flight, you will go through Exit Immigration and get stamped out of China on your way to your international boarding gate. Your single-entry visa will become void at that point.
On the return from Tblisi to URC, you will enter as an international transit passenger. In Tblisi, depending on how CZ handles things, you may be given a CIQ sticker to wear. At URC, CZ may have a ramp agent corral you and the other international transit passengers, and accompany you to Entry Immigration to get the special TWOV stamp in your passport (not a normal entry stamp done for a visa holder). Or they may not have a special agent...in which case you head for Entry Immigration yourself and do this. If there is a desk for "international Transit Passengers" use that, otherwise, any desk for foreigners. MAKE SURE YOU CARRY A PRINTOUT of your confirmed itinerary back to MEL to show the desk officer. Once past that, you can head to your next flight to CAN, where procedures there on your way to the MEL flight will have your TWOV stamp inspected (may or may not get another stamp out, not all posts do a TWOV exit stamp).
While you are free to leave the airport in URC after getting your TWOV stamp, it indeed may not be practical since transport to/from the city plus security to get back in, will eat up 3-ish hours, leaving you with less than 4 hours. I'd probably just hang out since you'd already have had a stopover in Urumqi earlier.
You'll need to discuss with CZ whether on the return journey, your bags can be sent all the way to MEL or even to CAN, or whether there would be another manual pickup and recheck required in URC. I'm not sure what URC airport policy and CZ policy is there. CAN normally autoroutes international transfer passenger bags through to destination.
If you prefer to get a double- or multiple-entry visa and the price and any additional hassles to get are worth it to you, then of course that always remains an option but it isn't necessary for this itinerary and timing. A single will do. China Southern routes a large amount of international transit traffic from Russia and Central Asia to SE Asia and Oz via the double-stop Urumqi-Guangzhou connection, so it MUST have established standard procedures for dealing with this.
Aug 19, 2012 2:23 AM
Aug 19, 2012 8:22 AM
14The very reason the Chinese government decided to allow Transit Without Visa is to try to give Chinese airlines and airport hubs (particularly Air China at PEK, China Eastern at PVG, and China Southern at CAN) a fighting chance to obtain and increase international transit passenger business. Prior to TWOV, nearly everybody not heading into China would route through established hubs Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong, all of which have less transit hassles for most international thru- passengers.
China finally figured out they weren't going to be able to attract very much international transit business if they still required everybody to get visas. Chinese airline execs and tourism people love TWOV and the provision that lets passengers leave the airport....and if they had their way, they'd allow a few day's visa-free transit for everybody! Security people and the more paranoid Chinese government sectors hate TWOV, so for now there are still fairly major constraints on timing. And still have the requirement to pass through Immigration, even though the physical plant of many major Chinese airports were designed for, and would be easily configurable to allow airside transit without going through Immy (similar to Asian hubs previously mentioned, as well as SIN, BKK, KUL, etc.).
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