As the Guangzhou Morning Post reported on August 2, Guangzhou is the third Chinese city to have introduced a special 74-hour visa exempt transit for foreign passport holders. A service desk for visa exempt entries into the country have been set up at Baiyun International Airport. Visa free entry permits began to be issued on August 1.
This special regulation allows transit passengers to stay in China’s Guangdong Province for 74 hours. The visa free entry is only granted to travellers who take an international transfer via Guangzhou. For example, if you fly from Taipei to Frankfurt via Guangzhou, and you have to wait several hours at the airport, you can go to the special desk, fill in the arrival card, show your valid ticket to a third country and your passport, and you will get a visa exempt stay permit for up to three days. Instead of idling around at the airport, you can take advantage of this opportunity to visit Guangzhou and Guangdong Province.
Passport holders from 45 countries are eligible for a visa exempt transit. The countries are:
Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden. Switzerland, UK, Ukraine.
America: US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile
Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
Asia: Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, UAE, Qatar (source)
The other two Chinese cities who allow a 74-hour stay for transit passengers are Beijing and Shanghai. Last year, I had a transfer flight in Beijing, and I got a visa exempt entry at the airport. It was very easy and fast. After getting off the plane, I filled in the arrival card, showed the airport staff my passport and my tickets (Taipei > Beijing, Beijing > Rome), and in just five minutes I got a stamp on my passport that allowed me to go out of the airport and stay in Beijing for 3 days.
What Happens If You Overstay
The procedure I described above is very simple and at odds with what Westerners often hear about tight controls in China. You can entry the country without a visa, and no one controls you, no one knows who you are and what you’re up to. As a consequence, there have been cases of foreigners who have overstayed their 74-hour visa exempt entry.
As China Daily reported (China Daily, August 8, 2013, p. 3), a foreigner who stayed in China illegally for 33 days was fined 10,000 yuan (around €1,300, $1,600) according to the Exit-Entry Administration Law that took effect on July 1, 2013. The foreigner, identified simply as ‘Peter’, had the right to demand a hearing on his case, but he apologised for staying in China illegally and accepted to pay the fine without protest.
According to the new provisions, foreigners who overstay their visa exempt transit permit will be fined 500 yuan per day, for a maximum of 10,000 yuan. Alternately, they can be detained for between 5 and 15 days.