FAQs: Answers to common expat queries

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I have a few questions about the 144-hour visa-free transit policy:

I hold a British passport and plan to fly from London to Hong Kong, then from Hong Kong to Shanghai and afterwards travel in Shanghai for four days, flying back to London. I would like to know:

  1. Does flying from Hong Kong to Shanghai to London comply with the 144-hour visa-free transit policy requirements?
  2. What is a "through ticket"? Does it require both segments to be with the same airline?
  3. Must the airport of arrival in Shanghai be the same as the airport of departure from Shanghai?


Based on your plans, here's how the 144-hour visa-free transit policy applies to you:

  1. If you hold a British passport and have pre-booked flights from Hong Kong to Shanghai and from Shanghai to London four days later, you qualify for the 144-hour visa-free transit in the Jiangsu-Zhejiang-Shanghai area.
  2. Purchasing separate tickets in advance for the Hong Kong to Shanghai and Shanghai to London segments is acceptable. The immigration authorities do not require both segments to be with the same airline.
  3. You can enter or exit through either Shanghai Hongqiao Airport or Shanghai Pudong Airport. For example, you can fly from Hong Kong to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and depart from Shanghai Pudong Airport to London and still comply with the policy.

Important notes:

  • Ensure your passport is valid for at least three more months.
  • If your passport has a Chinese visa rejection stamp, or if you have records of illegal entry, residence, or employment in China within the past five years, you will not be issued a temporary entry permit and cannot use the 144-hour visa-free transit.

(Source: Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection)


My daughter and I are Finnish citizens traveling to Shanghai from London on Oct 25 and staying until Oct 30.

Then, we'll go to Japan for five days and transit back through Shanghai to London, staying less than 24 hours.

Can we use the 144-hour visa-free transit in Shanghai for our initial stay and the 24-hour visa-free transit on our return from Japan? Or should we get a double-entry visa before our trip?

My husband, an Irish citizen, can stay in China visa-free for up to 15 days. Does he need to do anything else?

Lastly, we have Turkish stamps in our passports from a recent trip. Will they cause any issues for visa-free entry?


Based on your letter, if you have a valid Finnish passport and have pre-booked direct flights from London to Shanghai and then from Shanghai to Japan six days later, you can apply for a 144-hour visa-free transit in the Jiangsu-Zhejiang-Shanghai area with the border inspection authorities.

With regards to you and your daughter, given that you both hold valid Finnish travel documents and have confirmed connecting flights from Japan to Shanghai and then to London within 24 hours, you have two options:

  1. If you don't need to leave the airport's restricted area, you can transit directly without going through immigration.
  2. If you wish to exit the restricted area, you can apply for a 24-hour visa-free transit at the immigration desk. After a successful border check, you'll be granted temporary entry.

With regards to your husband:

As an Irish passport holder, your husband may be eligible for a 15-day visa-free stay if:

  • His visit purpose aligns with current policy
  • He can provide supporting documents for his entry purpose
  • He receives approval from border inspection authorities

Regarding your question about the Turkish visa, the impact of a Turkish visa on visa-free entry will be determined by the border inspection authorities at the time of entry.

(Source: Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection)


As I have reached retirement age and will be leaving China, how can I withdraw my social security contributions (pension, medical)?


Under Article 5 of the Interim Measures for Social Insurance System Coverage of Foreigners Working within the Territory of China:

Foreigners covered by the social insurance system shall be entitled to social insurance benefits in accordance with the law, once the qualifying conditions are met.

For those who leave the country before reaching the stipulated pension age, their individual social insurance accounts will be retained. If they return to China for employment, their contribution years will be accumulated. Alternatively, upon a written application to terminate the social insurance relationship, the balance in their individual social insurance account can be paid out to them in a lump sum.

Individuals can go to the nearest community affairs service center for processing.

According to the relevant regulations on the basic medical insurance for employees, employees who terminate their pension insurance – due to a one-time pension payment, death, or emigration and the cancellation of their basic pension insurance account – can bring documents to the nearest district medical insurance center to settle their personal medical account funds.

Before settling the personal account funds, any unpaid or unreimbursed medical expenses for outpatient, emergency, hospitalization, or home care must first be settled, reimbursed, or reduced.

If the settlement amount exceeds 10,000 yuan ($1,378), an appointment is required and the settlement can be processed within 10 working days after making the appointment.

(Sources: Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, Shanghai Municipal Medical Insurance Bureau)


I have been living and working in Shanghai for three years and am enrolled in the social security system, including the Housing Provident Fund. Is there a way I can check the amount I have accumulated?


Foreign employees need to bring their insurance documents to the nearest district social security center, in order to check their pension insurance payment status.

Applicants who are not citizens of the Chinese mainland can inquire about the details of their accounts for the past three years at the business outlets of the Shanghai Provident Fund Management Center or those of the China Construction Bank's housing provident fund, with any of the following valid identification – passport, residence permit, exit and entry permit, or other valid ID, according to the fund management center.

(Sources: Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, Shanghai Provident Fund Management Center)


I have been accepted into a university in Shanghai and will start my studies in September. Once I receive the JW202/201 Form and the admission letter from the university, can I apply directly for a new residence permit?


You can apply for a residence permit for foreign students in Shanghai with the following documents: the application forms and admission notice from the university, the Confirmation Form for Study in China (JW202/201 Form) and other relevant documents, according to the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Public Security.

(Source: Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Public Security)

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