As of January 1, 2013, Beijing and Shanghai are now allowing citizens of 45 enlisted countries visa-free transit entry for up to 72 hours.
Qualified foreign nationals include those who transit through Beijing International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, or Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Before arriving in China, they must qualify for entering the third country and must have purchased a plane ticket with confirmed seating to that country. The transit period in China can be no longer than 72 hours. Such foreign nationals may leave the airport during their transit period and engage in tourism within the boundary of their city of arrival. The 45 countries include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Japan, and Singapore.
Foreign nationals who travel outside of their city of arrival or stay beyond 72 hours may face punishment. Beijing has announced that foreign nationals who, due to uncontrollable circumstances, need to stay longer than 72 hours or travel outside of Beijing must apply for a visa at the Department of Entry-Exit Administration of the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Foreign nationals who fail to apply for a visa under these circumstances may be punished according to the law and regulations related to illegal presence. Serious violations may result in restrictions on their future entries.
Beijing's and Shanghai's new policies are more lenient than China's current transit visa waiver regulation, which only allows foreign nationals wishing to transit through China up to 24 hours without a transit visa. They must have a valid connecting ticket with confirmed seating on an international flight and they must remain in the airport. The new program also expands Shanghai's existing transit visa waiver program, which exempts citizens of a shorter list of countries from the visa requirement if the travelers transit by air through Shanghai and stay for no more than 48 hours.