While planning our trip to Shanghai, we read about the TWOV (Transit Without Visa), meaning you can transit through Shanghai without the need for a Visa. There are some restrictions, but if you read and follow the rules you can get yourself a big fat trip to China without the hassle (and cost) of a Visa!
I should say that this does not constitute immigration advice – this is just my understanding of the information online, and my experiences. If you are going, you should also research it yourself!
Essentially, if you are from certain countries, you can take advantage of the 24, 72, or 144 hour Transit without Visa rules which apply to certain cities in China. You also need to be coming from a third country, transiting through China, and travelling on to another third country. There are other rules about where you can go when you enter Shanghai, and when the time starts running to measure the 144 hours.
So for example, in my understanding, as long as I had the right nationality/passport, if I was travelling around Asia, I could fly from say Japan, transit through Shanghai, and fly on to Vietnam.
I understood the general gist of the TWOV programe, but I was still unsure about our specific plans. I am from the UK, and wanted the 144 hour TWOV for Shanghai. My trip for the purposes of the visa was: Taiwan –> Shanghai, China –> Amsterdam, Holland.
Is Taiwan a Third Country or part of China?
I knew Holland would be fine as it’s clearly not part of China! But I was unsure whether Taiwan counts as an external “third country” or not, or whether it counts as another stop on the Chinese mainland.
I was concerned because of my understanding that China sees Taiwan as part of China, but Taiwan sees itself as an independent country. See news source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-38285354
Research and Preparation
I did a lot of online research and I read forums/blogs which say that Taiwan counts as a separate country, but I am yet to find any official source that confirms this. The forums pointed me to the Shanghai Immigration website and Timatic (which is apparently the tool that airlines use to find out what Visas are needed). But even on these I couldn’t see any reference to this.
Info from Shanghai Immigration Dept:-
Info from Timatic:- (You can input the country you are travelling to, the type of visa / TWOV you require, and it will tell you the rules.)
I joined other travellers asking on online forums, and some online posters were adamant that it was possible, but agreed there was no actual authoritative source. They also explained that Hong Kong and Macau were much the same – although they are special administrative regions of China, they are considered to be third countries for the purposes of the TWOV issue. So confusing!
I was hesitant to travel on the strength of “someone on the internet says I can”, as I doubt that would hold much weight with the immigration officials! I had visions of being deported, or not being allowed to even board the plane in Taiwan.
We printed out the Timatic and the Shanghai Immigration website, and prepared ourselves to argue the point. I was anxious on the day of travel. My BF and I made plans for the worst situations we could think of – what if we get deported? what if one of us gets deported and the other is allowed in? what if one or both of us gets arrested? We told our parents beforehand, we split our money up so we each had funds, and we each took copies of the telephone number for the British embassy in both Shanghai and Taiwan. We were as prepared as we could be.
On the Day – Paperwork Needed
So this blog is to report back on how we got on. And thank the lord, we got on just fine! We had no trouble boarding the plane at Taiwan, but they did ask for evidence of our onward flight. We had the itinerary printed out and they were fine with that.
When we got to immigration at Shanghai (we flew into Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport) there was a specific lane for 72 and 144 TWOV towards the right-hand side of the Immigration hall. However, there is no separate queue, so you still have to queue up with everyone else. We had to complete a different arrival card too – these can be found on the little tables and are a different colour. I was asked for these documents:-
- Completed 144-hour TWOV Arrivals Card
- Evidence of onward travel to prove you are leaving within the 144 hours. We had a printed Itinerary from the Airline.
I also had my boarding pass from the flight I just came off, and a completed normal arrivals card too but they didn’t ask for it.
If everyone was as prepared, the queue would move faster! Grrr! The french girl in front of us seemed unprepared – she was standing on a skateboard rolling back and forth, and didn’t have any info ready. When they asked her about her onward travel she showed them her phone which had a flight booked for a different date, and she said she had changed the date…. But surprisingly they accepted it! It made me a little frustrated at how much prep and worry I’d gone through, and she turned up unprepared and still got in!! 🙂
After the boarder guard had checked our documents, she gave our passports and documents to someone else who asked us to follow them. I was a bit worried. Skateboard girl was there too. She got hers stamped and she went off. It made me feel better – if she got in, we will get in, surely?!
The immigration officer asked me if I had been to China before, and I said yes. He then stamped my passport, told us that we must leave on our booked flight, and let us go. Massive relief!! (although my BF later told me that I had misheard the question – apparently he asked me “you’ve never been to China before?”. Who knows, but I answered the question I heard honestly!)
So that was that. We entered Shanghai, had a lovely mini holiday there, and left from the other airport – Shanghai Pudong International Airport and this went just like any normal airport check-in.
So in conclusion, it seems that Taiwan does count as a “Third Country” for the purposes of Transit Without Visa. Yay!! Glad we’ve sorted that out! I am writing this in the hope that it might help people in the future, as I know how little info there was online. However I need to reiterate that this does not constitute immigration advice – this is just my understanding of the information online, and my experiences from trying this myself at the time when we travelled. If you are going, you should research it yourself and think about your specific circumstances at the time you are travelling.
Next blog: 144 hours in Shanghai
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