China's 15-Day Visa-Free Policy for Cruise Groups at Shanghai Ports

Written by Sally Guo Updated May. 31, 2024

Foreign tourist groups arriving in Shanghai by cruise can take advantage of a 15-day visa-free policy since October 1, 2016. This means you can explore China Mainland without the hassle of applying for a Chinese visa for up to 15 days.

Below, you'll discover essential details to help you plan your journey to Shanghai and other coastal destinations in China, including Beijing and Tianjin.

China 15-day visa-free area

Requirements for China's 15-Day Visa-Free Policy

Foreigners of any nationality are eligible for the 15-day visa exemption if they meet these requirements:

Passengers arriving at Shanghai Cruise Terminal
Passengers arriving at Shanghai Cruise Terminal

It's advisable to book your tour at least 1 week in advance to allow your travel agency sufficient time to arrange a visa-free cruise trip for you.

As a full-service travel agency based in China, we can customize a visa-free tour to China according to your preferences.

15-Day Visa-free Permitted Areas in China

The visa-free tour group can visit and leave from any port in specific areas of China, as long as everyone travels together on the same cruise ship.

You can only explore the following regions under the 15-day visa-free policy:

Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and provinces including Liaoning, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan.

How to Apply for the 15-Day Visa-Free Entry?

Step 1: Contact an authorized China travel agency, such as China Travel, to arrange a visa-free visit to China.

Step 2: Book tours through the travel agency and provide necessary personal information.

Step 3: The travel agency will submit the list of tour group members and the entire itinerary for the tour within China to the Shanghai Immigration Inspection Authority at least 24 hours before the ship docks at the terminal.

Step 4: Visa-free entry procedures for the group are dependent on approval by the Authority.

Step 5: Disembark the cruise ship, undergo immigration inspections at the port with your passport, and have your status electronically recorded by the Immigration Inspection Cruise Management System.

Step 6: Meet your tour guide provided by the travel agency at the cruise terminal and start your journey in China.

Parking Lot at Shanghai Wusongou Cruise Terminal
Parking Lot at Shanghai Wusongou Cruise Terminal

FAQs about the 15-Day Visa-Free Policy for Cruise Tour Groups

The 15-day visa-free policy for cruise tour groups offers convenience by allowing travelers to explore Shanghai and nearby regions without the hassle of obtaining a visa. Here are some frequently asked questions about this policy.

How to calculate the 15-day period?

The 15-day period starts at midnight after you arrive and lasts for 360 hours.

For example, if you arrive in Shanghai at 8:00 am on April 1st, your authorized stay period starts at midnight on April 2nd. You are permitted to stay until 23:59 on April 16th.

This implies that your visa-free stay in China might be a bit longer than 15 days (but not exceeding 16 days), depending on your arrival and departure times.

If I enter Shanghai by cruise but leave using other transportation, am I still eligible for this visa-free policy?

If you enter Shanghai by cruise but depart using other transportation like a plane or train, you are not eligible for this policy. This 15-day visa-free policy applies only to tour groups that both enter and depart on the same cruise ship.

However, you may check if you qualify for the 144-hour visa-free transit in Shanghai. The 144-hour visa-free policy applies to travelers from 54 countries, allowing a visa-free stay of up to 144 hours within the Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang regions.

The entry and exit ports include Pudong Airport, Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai Railway Station, Shanghai Cruise Terminal, Wusongkou Cruise Terminal, Nanjing Lukou Airport, Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport, and Ningbo Lishe Airport.

Shanghai Wusongou Cruise Terminal
Shanghai Wusongou Cruise Terminal

Do I need to be hosted by a registered travel agency?

To benefit from the 15-day visa-free policy for cruise arrivals, you need to be part of a tour group organized by a legally registered travel agency in China. The group must consist of two or more people.

The hosting agency must submit the list of tour group members and the entire itinerary for China to the Shanghai Immigration Inspection Authority beforehand. Visa-free entry procedures for the group can only proceed after approval by the Authority.

What documents are required for visa-free entry?

You'll need your valid international travel documents, typically your passport, to show your identity when leaving the ship.

There's no need for arrival and departure cards anymore.

Your travel document won't be stamped with entry or exit records. Instead, your status will be electronically recorded by the Immigration Inspection Cruise Management System as you disembark or board the cruise ship.

Do I have to go back to the ship to stay overnight, or can I stay in a downtown hotel?

You have the option to choose between staying on the ship or staying in a downtown hotel.

If you decide to stay in a downtown hotel, you'll need to provide your passport and a copy of the tour member list with entry records when you check in.

For more details about this 15-day visa-exempt policy, you can contact the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection at 086-021-31366000.

What if I decide on board to join a group, instead of in advance?

If you decide to join a 15-day visa-free tour group while on board, you must first confirm with both the cruise company and the hosting travel agency. The travel agency will initially submit an emergency application and then make adjustments to the list of enrolled passengers as necessary.

The visa-free entry procedures for these individual passengers can only be carried out after they have been examined and approved by the Shanghai Immigration Inspection Authority.

Join in a Visa-Free Cruise Tour with China Travel

Guests Travel with us in Shanghai
Guests Travel with us in Shanghai

Given that cruises entering from Shanghai have the flexibility to visit and depart from any port within approved areas in China, China Travel can certainly organize private journeys for tour group members.

Importantly, we can arrange trips from cruise terminals, including visa exemptions, making your excursions more convenient and time-efficient. Here are three local tours we recommend for your cruise trip:

We can also help you to create a 15-day visa-free cruise tour to make the most of your time and meet your interests.

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