China has recently expanded their visa waiver provision, allowing certain in-transit visitors to visit the country for 144-hours (6 days) without a visa. This is really a great opportunity to get in a not-insubstantial visit without the hassle and expense of obtaining a Chinese visa before you leave your home country, the only other option for travel to China. The requirements for this waiver are specific, though:
You must arrive in China from one country and depart to a third country, i.e., you CANNOT simply fly to China and back from your home (or another) country.
The visa waiver is available to those arriving and departing from certain entry points including airports and cruise ship ports in Shanghai, Baoshan, etc.
You may visit certain other nearby regions and cities. For more information see: http://www.sh-immigration.gov.cn/listPageEn.aspx?lx=40&id=4414. (The link to the left of this page entitled “Interpretation of 144-hour Visa-exemption Transit Policy” has useful answers to FAQ’s, too.)
You need to advise the carrier taking you to China of your plan to use the 144-hour visa waiver at the time you check-in. You have to show that carrier your actual departure tickets to a third country (and itinerary if needed to clarify that you will be leaving to a third country). They will enter this information in their computer and, presumably, thereby notify the Chinese authorities that a passenger intends to use this waiver upon arrival in China.
Once in China, at immigration, you go to a clearly-marked visa waiver line rather than the usual immigration line. At the Shanghai Airport, this line was to the far right as you look at the immigration lines. The line for visa waivers was much shorter than the regular lines. You need to again present actual tickets showing your onward travel plans to a third country. Since we were leaving on a cruise, rather than a flight, we had to show our itinerary as well as our tickets which showed that the next stop on our cruise was in Japan, not China or the country we had been in prior to China (which, for us, was South Korea). [The cruise itinerary was not on our tickets and the original itinerary I had with me showed a first cruise stop in Xiamen, China rather than Okinawa, Japan, which was substituted for Xiamen, so it was crucial that we printed an accurate itinerary before departing South Korea.] Once you’ve presented the required documents, you receive an appropriate sticker in your passport allowing you to remain in China until your departure. (Your Chinese hotel will request your passport and verify your authorization under the visa waiver program.)