SHANGHAI- A 72-hour free visa for travellers in transit was (and is still) expected for Beijing. However, last week China's State Council finally announced to approve a new visa policy that will grant foreign transit visitors to Shanghai with visa-free access for up to 72 hours, an extension over the current 48-hour waiver.
Currently, a 24-hour visa-free stay is available to all international passengers passing through Shanghai, while the 48-hour waiver is available to citizens of 32 countries. Among countries benefiting from the 48-hour facility are the USA, Japan, Singapore, the UK, Germany, France or Switzerland.
The visa-free policy is seen as part of the city's efforts to attract more travelers and visitors and enhance Shanghai's reputation as an air transport hub. Shanghai was the first city to pioneer the visa-free policy for transit passengers back to 2000 at its two international airports, Hongqiao and Pudong. In 2011, Shanghai police indicates that close to 3,000 visitors used the 48-hour visa-free service, up by 78.5% over 2010. The visa-free policy is also expected to be extended to railways and ports.
Shanghai hopes to speed up growth in tourism arrivals as the city currently experiences a slowdown in total arrivals, a natural move following the hosting of the World Expo in 2010. Over 400,000 passengers transfer every year at Pudong International Airport.
Beijing is also considering implementing a similar initiative that grants foreign tourists with visa-free access for up to 72 hours. The visa-free policy was announced at the end of May but so far, no progress on its implementation has been signaled.