If you’ve entered or exited China to or from Hong Kong you’ve probably already seen and experienced long lines at the border waiting to pass through customs. You may have also noticed that some people don’t have to wait in these lines and quickly pass through a self-service area (e-Channel). If you’re here for an extended period of time, are a business traveler, or meet other qualifications, you can also skip those long lines and use the self service areas!
It’s important to point out that as you’ll need to go through two different custom inspection areas; one on the mainland China side and another on the Hong Kong side. This unfortunately means that you’ll also need to apply for these two e-Channel passes separately.
The Mainland China Border e-Channel
Here’s a short breakdown of some of the main points as provided by the Shenzhen Border Inspection Administration. There is no cost to apply. For more detailed information and personal stories from users, we suggest visiting Global From Asia’s awesome article on the subject.
Who Can Apply?
Anyone with a valid foreign passport with functioning embedded chip and a minimum of 6 months of China residence permit can apply. It doesn’t matter what type of visa you have as long as you have a residence permit. NOTE: This residence permit is NOT the same as the registration of temporary residence that all foreigners are required to do within 24 hours of entering mainland China. 有效外国电子护照（电子芯片需可正常读取）和6个月以上中国居留许可
Updated August 11th: There are three requirements for children using the mainland China e-Channel:
- They must be at least seven years old;
- They must be at least 1.2 meters tall;
- They must be accompanied by an adult.
Where to apply?
You can apply at the Information Collection and Records Window for self access channel at any Shenzhen Border Crossing during their regular business hours. 深圳口岸边检机关自助通道信息采集备案窗口 Times vary from border to border. If you need more info, here’s a great article by Global From Asia on the various Hong Kong/Shenzhen Border Crossings.
How Long Does it Last?
The e-Channel pass will be operational for as long as your visa is valid in that passport. If you change passports or get a new visa, you will need to re-apply.
The Hong Kong Border e-Channel
Getting the Hong Kong border e-Channel is much more flexible than the mainland China e-Channel. It was originally designed for Hong Kong residents to travel to China more easily; however, it can now be used by various many others. Here’s a list of who can apply. Some of these below have special processes; in those cases we’ve linked them to more details.
Who Can Apply?
- A Hong Kong permanent resident aged 11 or above (using a smart identity card)
- A Hong Kong resident aged 11 or above holding a Document of Identity for Visa Purposes (using a smart identity card and carrying a valid Document of Identity for Visa Purposes)
- A person aged 11 or above who has the right to land or is on unconditional stay in Hong Kong (using a smart identity card)
- A non-permanent resident issued with a notification label (using a smart identity card and carrying a valid travel document)
- A registered cross-boundary primary school student under the age of 11 (using the enrolled valid travel document)
- A registered frequent visitor aged 18 or above (using the enrolled valid travel document)
- A registered Macau permanent resident aged 11 or above (using a Macau permanent identity card)
- A registered Republic of Korea citizen aged 17 or above and enrolled under Smart Entry Service (SES) scheme (using the Republic of Korea Passport valid for at least 6 months and having no adverse record in the HKSAR)
- An enrolled holder of a Republic of Singapore Passport aged 11 or above (using a Republic of Singapore Passport valid for at least 6 months, completed 3 trips in past 12 months and having no adverse record in the HKSAR)
- An enrolled holder of a Federal Republic of Germany Passport aged 18 or above (using a Federal Republic of Germany Passport valid for at least 6 months and having no adverse record in the HKSAR)
- An enrolled holder of an Australian Passport aged 16 or above (using an Australian Passport valid for at least 6 months and having no adverse record in the HKSAR)
According to the HKSAR Immigration Department, other Non-Hong Kong residents can also apply for the Hong Kong e-Channel Service via other programs; such as:
- HKSAR Travel Pass Holder
- APEC Business Traveler (with “HKG” printed on the back)
- HKIA Frequent Visitor Card Holder
- Frequent Flyers of programs who have enrolled in the scheme*
NOTE: We’ve been told that the United States and Canada will not print “HKG” on the back of APEC cards they issue. Without the “HKG” demarcation, the card cannot be used to get e-Channel pass from Hong Kong; however, the card gives you access to use the Special Lane when going through Immigration.
HKSAR Travel Pass:
“Frequent visitors who hold valid passports and are eligible to come to the HKSAR without a visa or entry permit for visit purpose may apply for HKSAR Travel Pass. Applicants should have genuine needs to visit the HKSAR frequently, and have come for visits trouble-free on 3 or more occasions (other than return from side trips to the Mainland of China or the region of Macao) in the 12-month period immediately preceding the application, or can satisfy the Director of Immigration that their visits may bring substantial benefits to the HKSAR.” For more information, about this and or how to apply, click here.
APEC Business Traveler:
Business people from more than 20 countries can apply for an APEC card; which gives VIP treatment at customs and immigration services around the world. For complete details about this, how to apply, and more, click here.
The countries include:
- Brunei Darussalam
- Mainland China
- Hong Kong China
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Chinese Taipei
Not an APEC Member or business person?
Did you know U.S. Citizens can get APEC card when applying for Global Entry?
“Global Entry is a program of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service that allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to receive expedited clearance upon arrival into the United States.”
TIP: If there is no interview location near you when you apply, just pick a date far enough in advance where you know you’ll be at a major airport in the U.S. before then. As long as you’re in the system, you’ll be able to walk into any Global Entry office in most major airports for a walk-in interview. At the time of writing this article they seemed to be allowing these walk-ins. Let’s hope it doesn’t change.
HKIA Frequent Visitor Card Holder:
Since the introduction of the Frequent Visitor e-Channels, The Hong Kong International Airport is no longer accepting any new applications for the Frequent Visitor Card Program.
Frequent Flyer Program Members:
Frequent flyers from the participating airlines listed below can also apply for the e-Channel pass. Some require certain status levels. In some cases those are listed there; however, you may want to check with your program to confirm.
*Not all Frequent Flyer programs qualify. Here’s a list of participating airlines compiled by Australian Business Traveller
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air France
- Air New Zealand: Airpoints Silver, Gold, Gold Elite
- Asiana Airlines
- British Airways: Executive Club Silver, Gold
- Cathay Pacific: all Marco Polo members
- China Airlines
- China Southern
- Eva Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Hong Kong Airlines
- Hong Kong Express
- Japan Airlines: Mileage Bank Fly On Crystal, Sapphire, Premier, Diamond; JAL Global Club
- Jet Airways
- Korean Air: all Morning Calm members
- Lufthansa: Miles & More Frequent Traveller, Senator, HON Circle
- Malaysia Airlines: Enrich Silver, Gold and Platinum
- Philippine Airlines
- Qantas: Gold, Platinum, Platinum One, Chairman’s Lounge
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Brunei
- Singapore Airlines: KrisFlyer Elite Gold and PPS Club
- Swiss: all Miles & More members
- Thai Airways
- United: MileagePlus Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K
- Virgin Atlantic: Flying Club Gold
For passenger that do not meet the qualifications mentioned above, you can also apply if you:
- Are holding a valid travel document which is not required to have entry visa / permit for entering the HKSAR;
- Made visits to the HKSAR via the Hong Kong International Airport for no fewer than 3 times in the past 12 months immediately before enrolment for the e-Channel service.
Wondering what it’s like to use the e-Channel service on the Hong Kong side? Check out this video showing the process. Provided by Hong Kong Immigration:
Where to Apply?
Now that you’re all excited about getting an e-Channel pass, you may be wondering where to apply. All eligible passengers can enroll, free of charge, at e-Channel Enrolment Offices located at the Immigration Headquarters and the Hong Kong International Airport.
Location of e-Channel Enrolment Offices at the Hong Kong International Airport. NOTE: This is BEFORE you go out to Baggage Claim! You can’t come back once you go out.
Do you have anything you’d like to share that we may have missed? Or has something changed since the writing of this article? Please let us know by adding a comment below!