On our way back to France after 7 months in Asia, we organize our return to stay a few days in Beijing, China.
For several years now, the French have not needed visas if they stay less than 72 hours, a principle that was doubled in December 2017. You can now stay up to 6 days (144 hours).
Make sure you know the terms and conditions (not all Chinese airports offer this visa exemption and you must leave from the same airport as the one you arrived at).
Here are a few tips for easy enjoyment.
Prepare your documents: tickets and hotel reservations
At the Chinese immigration, the officer will ask you for your exit ticket and hotel reservation.
I’m used to not preparing these documents in advance because everything is in my emails and I can pull them out without difficulty.
The problem is that in China internet access is more difficult than elsewhere (at the airport you can either log in with the Wechat application or get a free code from an automatic terminal).
Still, even if you have access to the internet, many services are blocked (including all those of Google, including Gmail), so it can be complicated or even impossible to retrieve your emails proving your reservations.
On the spot, it was the Google Inbox application that saved my ass because it backs up all the data concerning the trips offline, but it was a little scary.
Avoid this by printing your documents or downloading them to your phone.
At check-in, explain the principle of the free-visa to the check-in hostess
We arrived in Beijing via a flight from Jeju, South Korea.
Even though it is an international airport, the vast majority of travelers are Korean and need a visa to go to China.
During the check-in, the hostess started to look for the visa on our passport. Visa which does not exist.
So we had to explain to him that as French, we do not need a visa for a short stay in China.
After verification, the registration went smoothly. Not without checking our tickets and the date of exit from China.
Do not fill out the yellow immigration document given to you on the plane
The yellow arrival card is the one for classic stays, with visa. Do not fill it in, it will be of no use to you.
Take your fingerprints at the automatic kiosks
At the exit of the plane in Beijing, automatic kiosks are available for foreigners. Scan your passport and take your fingerprints. The terminal will give you a ticket indicating that you have already taken your fingerprints. This will save you from having to do it a little later under the threatening gaze of a Chinese officer.
Follow the arrows “144 hour visa-free transit”
It is rather well indicated, just look at the ground.
Fill in the blue document
After a few minutes of walking, you will find blue entrance cards on a desk. This is the one you have to fill in to benefit from the visa exemption.
Go to the specific counter for visa-free
When we arrived, this counter was empty. There is no point in queuing at another ticket office, it is the one you have to go through.
If no one is there, try to get an employee to call an officer. Be patient, it is essential to go through this process.
Once an officer is present, if you have the documents ready (arrival credit card, outgoing airline ticket, hotel reservation), the operation will only take a few moments before the precious stamp is affixed to your passport.
You then have to go through a last counter to get out. You don’t have to wait in line, ask the officer which wicket you can go through, it’s not very clear.
In the end it took us some time, our two suitcases were waiting for us alone on the luggage conveyor belt.
If you want a visa for a longer stay, you can apply for a visa with Action Visas.