Q. I'm flying from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia this month, and on the return I have an overnight layover in Shanghai, just over 24 hours. I was under the impression that a visa will not be necessary, even if I plan to leave the airport and spend the night in a hotel, as long as I have my ticket back to the States, and my stay does not exceed 48 hours. Though when I explained this to a couple of well-traveled friends, they scoffed and said EVERYONE needs a visa for mainland China. Who is correct? I really don't want to spend the holidays in an airport holding area.

A. You are, at least according to the Chinese Embassy. The following is lifted directly from their page on visa-free transit:

1. Visas are not required of aliens who hold air tickets to the final destination and have booked seats on international airliners flying directly through China, and will stay in a transit city for less than 24 hours without leaving the airport.
2. Visas are not required of passport holders of the following countries, who transit through Pudong Airport or Hongqiao Airport of Shanghai, provided they hold valid passports, visas for the onward countries, final destination tickets and have booked seats, and stay in Shanghai for less than 48 hours : Republic of Korea, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland.

You can find the full text at us.chinese-embassy.org.

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