Since I started Jenny's Shanghai Tours one of the major challenges is how to explain China's policies to short-term visitors who don't have a longer term Chinese Visitor's Visa. In a series of three blog articles, I'll attempt to describe the different visas for various situations and some guidance on what you should do. This article describes the visa process overall. The following two blog posts will focus on the two primary purposes for getting a short term visa, 1) via the airports when you may have an 8 to 24 (or more) hour layover before another flight and 2) when you're entering a Chinese port via a cruise ship stopping in Shanghai, Tianjin or other port city.
The Overall Chinese Visa Process
It seems there is some confusion related to getting a transit visa during your stay in Shanghai to allow you to enter China. There are several ways to get visas to enter China from a cruise ship:
1) Apply for a visitors visa in advance of your trip through your embassy or a visa service. These are usually good for at least a year and allows you multiple entries;
2) Some large tour companies, including those who run the tours for your cruise ship, are able to get Visa exemptions, this allows you to take the tours offered by these companies in any ports that they enter, usually these are 15-day exemptions. Your cruise ship tour leader will typically get this exemption on your behalf.
3) You can get a 24/144hour transit visa if you meet the guidelines of entering China from one country, and leaving to another country and staying longer than 144 hours. You must also be holding a valid passport that doesn't expire for 6 months and be from one of 53 qualifying countries. This is the type of visa that many of our short stay (layover) customers use and requires each individual to go to the customs office before exiting the ship to get the transit visa. They are free, but require you to show your passport and cruise ship itinerary. You don't need to show that you are taking a tour when you exit, but sometimes this can help you get the visa to prove that you are leaving for a purpose and will return to the cruise ship.
Please note that, as you can imagine, your cruise company would like you to use their services, and they are authorized to provide group visa exemptions. However, you also have the right to exit the cruise ship to explore on your, enjoy dinner with a friend, or book a a tour with a private tour company such as Jenny's.
If you are uncomfortable with any pressure the cruise ship is applying to keep you on the ship or using their services it is understandable. If you wish to cancel your tour with Jenny's, please let me know as soon as possible, but we have found that getting a transit visa is rarely a problem if you follow the process.
Thanks so much for understanding and please let me know what questions this may raise.