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China “transit without visa” fiasco for Shanghai cruises

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China “transit without visa” fiasco for Shanghai cruises

 

 

 

A caution to all travelers boarding cruises in Shanghai, China.

In 2016, Shanghai Immigration extended its airline “transit without visa” scheme to cruise passengers. There are some disarmingly simple rules to follow. Passengers must have an onward ticket for a country other than the one form which they travelled to Shanghai. This is the so-called “third country rule, and it’s designed to stop the scheme being used by business travelers. Thus, for example, one can fly from Singapore to Shanghai and then cruise (or fly) to the USA as the destination.

Visas are good for 144 hours (six days) and permit tourists to visit other cities around Shanghai. The terms and conditions are well-documented online by the Shanghai authorities. Tourists avoid the hassle and the cost of having to obtain a visa in advance, and China travel industry and local economy get a boost by the tourism dollars. Given the number of cruises now making Shanghai their embarkation point, this is a win-win situation of everyone.

However, beware of how the Chinese authorities interpret the term “destination”.

In late August, 2017, three couples (USA, Canada & New Zealand) bound for cruises on the “Mariner of the Seas” (Royal Caribbean) were holidaying first in Japan and flying onto Shanghai from Tokyo. They were refused boarding on the grounds that the Mariner’s first port of call was an 8 hour visit to Okinawa. The cruise line allowed them to board at Okinawa two days later. All the couples had airline tickets from Singapore, therefore, under the rules, their destinations were Singapore. Insurance companies agreed that the Chinese were wrong not to allow a transit-without-visa in these cases and paid out.

This was a lose-lose situation. It diminished the couples’ holidays and caused them a great deal of unnecessary stress. It made the Chinese authorities look stupid and Shanghai tourism lost the dollars those couples would have spent on accommodations and sightseeing. Be aware!

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Sorry, but I’m a little unclear - did the group travel from Tokyo to Shanghai via Singapore? If so, their starting point was Tokyo as they did not enter Singapore and obtain the passport stamp. On leaving Shanghai the next country to visit was Japan (Okinawa). Consequently, the group did not qualify for the aforementioned visa because their itinerary was Japan-China-Japan. If they had a genuine stopover in Singapore (with passport stamp) then I can see why they were aggrieved.

Am I missing something?

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Agree with Omega. It's unclear but from what's described it appears completely in line with how the rule has been intended and always been implemented.

 

 

What is unclear is it says boarding was denied, as though they cleared Chinese immigration, but then the ship would not let them leave. Regardless, the country you arrived from (Japan) has to be different from the country you are going (also Japan) and hence this did not comply. Cruisers in a similar situation last year were well aware of this.

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Confusing isn't it?

The independent couples travelled from their home countries to Japan en route to the Shanghai cruise to Singapore. They were prevented leaving Tokyo, Japan, by Air China. However, the travel industry agrees that from Shanghai, their next "destination" was Singapore because they did not intend to disembark at the cruise's first port of call, Okinawa, Japan. On the contrary, Chinese authorities deemed the cuise day stopover in Okinawa as "destination", even for those who didn't plan to go ashore there.

When denied boarding, one couple thought of flying to Shanghai via Seoul which would have conformed to the "three-country rule" for transit without visa. However, Air China lost their luggage and they had to wait several days in Tokyo for it to be returned.

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I see what you mean - it gets more complicated.

So Air China denied boarding in Tokyo because their first port on the cruise was Okinawa, but the group were not going ashore there and they regarded their first stop as Singapore.

Even though passengers do not disembark at a port the authorities still apply immigration rules and they are deemed to have entered the country. Consequently, the groups' itinerary for Chinese visa purposes was Japan-China-Japan.

We did a Far East cruise that had a one day stop at Port Blair (India) which required a visa (over £100pp). The reviews of Port Blair weren't very favourable, so we asked if we could stay on the ship, visa free. It wasn't possible because all passengers were required to have a visa regardless.

I still think the authorities got it right but very unfortunate for the group.

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Like Omega & Big M, it seems to me that the Chinese authorities correctly applied the rule.

The "destination" when leaving Shanghai is - and always has been - the first place visited, even if that's a ship's port-of-call or an airport en-route. So the destination was Okinawa, not Singapore.

 

Omega has quoted an example involving India.

A similar example is a Baltic cruise which includes a mid-cruise port of call at St Petersburg. Those who require a Schengen visa for European countries must have a multi-entry visa, not a single-entry one, because the ship leaves the Schengen area to visit SPB and then returns to another Schengen country. That applies even if those folk don't go ashore in SPB.

 

The rule is pretty clear, and I truly don't believe that "the travel industry" advised them that they didn't need a visa.

"The travel industry" might actually be just one person who got it wrong, and perhaps that's why the insurers paid out.

 

JB :)

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Yeah, have to agree that it seems clear and consistent with how most if not all countries handle immigration procedures. "Intention" doesn't mean anything official; destination is based entirely on what is officially down on paper. Their transit information said they were going from Japan to China via plane, and then China to Japan via boat. Anything after the first port of call would no longer be a destination from China.

 

Whatever travel professional advised them that they would not need a visa was in the wrong. I'm glad that they were allowed to board in Okinawa, and that insurance covered it, but Chinese authorities were just following the rules exactly as stated. I would file a complaint with whoever told them a visa wouldn't be required.

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Thanks so much for the alert. That is exactly what we were planning to do this coming October--spend a few days in Japan, fly to Shanghai for a couple of days, then board a ship and the first scheduled port stop is Okinawa. One option is to get the Visa. The other is possibly fly Japan-Hong Kong- Shanghai. Does that fit the parameters to avoid the need for a visa? It is a nuisance but could be done at minimal cost.

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Thanks so much for the alert. That is exactly what we were planning to do this coming October--spend a few days in Japan, fly to Shanghai for a couple of days, then board a ship and the first scheduled port stop is Okinawa. One option is to get the Visa. The other is possibly fly Japan-Hong Kong- Shanghai. Does that fit the parameters to avoid the need for a visa? It is a nuisance but could be done at minimal cost.

 

 

That should meet the requirements as long as China doesn't change them (and they've been in place since 2013, so doubtful they will change). Personally I would recommend getting the Visa. It is a bit more expensive, but with the Visa you have nothing to worry about. I'm a worrier though.

 

The rule is the country you were in before arriving in China and the country you are in immediately after leaving China must be different, and you must spend less than 144 hours in China. So in your second case, you would be transiting Hong Kong -> China -> Japan

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That should meet the requirements as long as China doesn't change them (and they've been in place since 2013, so doubtful they will change). Personally I would recommend getting the Visa. It is a bit more expensive, but with the Visa you have nothing to worry about. I'm a worrier though.

 

The rule is the country you were in before arriving in China and the country you are in immediately after leaving China must be different, and you must spend less than 144 hours in China. So in your second case, you would be transiting Hong Kong -> China -> Japan

 

I'm not sure that the above would qualify. It sounds like what is being asked is just a connection in the HKG airport, maybe even the same flight number or not. Regardless if you don't clear immigration and actually leave the airport as with a stopover, I'm not sure that it would qualify.

 

When you're in the airport (just connecting airside) you're not technically "in the country" - you need to go through immigration for that.

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As of December 2017 the 144 hour visa free is now in the Beijing/Tianjin area too. We will be on a cruise with the following itinerary:

Singapore

Phu My, Vietnam

Chan May port, Vietnam

Hong Kong

Incheon, Korea

Tianjin, China

We planned to leave the ship and spend three days in Beijing before flying home to Seattle Wa, USA.

 

This should qualify as we start in Singapore and end in the US.

Right?

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Yes, you visit Korea, then 3 days in China, then your next country is the US, so it meets the criteria.

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When you're in the airport (just connecting airside) you're not technically "in the country" - you need to go through immigration for that.

China doesn't actually care about that - "immigration". They care that you come from Country A, into China (country B) and depart within the specified time to Country C. HKG-PVG-Okinawa (if I'm understanding?) is acceptable for TWOV, as long as you have one of the eligible passports.

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"...However, beware of how the Chinese authorities interpret the term “destination”..." - The rules are pretty clear. This itinerary clearly did not qualify. Japan-Shanghai-Japan is not a transit, it is a return trip. You must go to a different country than the one that you came from. Pretty simple. you can't blame China immigration for applying the very clear rules. This is a mistake by the travelers.

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As of December 2017 the 144 hour visa free is now in the Beijing/Tianjin area too. We will be on a cruise with the following itinerary:

Singapore

Phu My, Vietnam

Chan May port, Vietnam

Hong Kong

Incheon, Korea

Tianjin, China

We planned to leave the ship and spend three days in Beijing before flying home to Seattle Wa, USA.

 

This should qualify as we start in Singapore and end in the US.

Right?

 

It does not matter where it starts, it is the last stop before China that matters. Korea-China-US is fine.

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Thanks so much for the alert. That is exactly what we were planning to do this coming October--spend a few days in Japan, fly to Shanghai for a couple of days, then board a ship and the first scheduled port stop is Okinawa. One option is to get the Visa. The other is possibly fly Japan-Hong Kong- Shanghai. Does that fit the parameters to avoid the need for a visa? It is a nuisance but could be done at minimal cost.

 

If you go to HK then you are fine as HK is considered a different country.

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If you go to HK then you are fine as HK is considered a different country.

 

Thanks for the responses. I have been searching on the internet and come to the conclusion that for peace of mind, it is better to get the visit. We are a pair of 80 year olds that really don't want to miss our ship.

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Thanks for the responses. I have been searching on the internet and come to the conclusion that for peace of mind, it is better to get the visit. We are a pair of 80 year olds that really don't want to miss our ship.
I hear you. To be honest, if I can't get something official from our cruise line stating they will allow us to board without the visa I will probably get it.

 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S8 using Tapatalk

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The link you sent looks to be for the Shanghai area where this has been in effect for over a year.

 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S8 using Tapatalk

 

Yes, as the recent posts that I was responding to were about Shanghai.

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I've never heard of "intention" mattering for visa issues like this. I think the Chinese authorities got it right. Looks very much like Japan-China-Japan to me.

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For "peace of mind" you can check the Q&A on this official Shanghai immigration website. Look at question #3: http://www.sh-immigration.gov.cn/listPageEn.aspx?lx=40&id=4421

 

Yes, I did find that info in my searches. I have also found a way to overnight in Hong Kong so I do not see why that would be legal. Princess does have a statement on the website that passengers doing the complete 60 day cruise from Lax to Lax do need a visa but passengers boarding in Shanghai do not. They are not considering you being in Japan before flying to Shanghai.

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Hi there, hoping to get some information from those recently back from cruises departing and returned from/to Shanghai with ports of call in Japan only. As US citizens, it appears we should be eligible for a 144 hour free visa for China since we're flying from the US to Shanghai and then leaving on the cruise to Japan within the 144 hour window. And then coming back entering Shanghai from Japan on the ship and departing on a flight that day back to the US. Does anyone have experience to share? Also, I assume we don't need Japanese visas (all ports of call are in Japan) in advance since tourist visas should be provided at the ports of call, correct? thanks in advance your any insight!

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