Australian passport holders, selected frequent flyers and other regular visitors to Hong Kong can bypass the queues at the country’s passport checkpoints in favour of automated e-Channel lanes, after completing a quick registration process.
Once registered, you’ll be able to come and go from Hong Kong just like a local – whether jetting through Hong Kong International Airport, taking the ferry to Macau or crossing one of the many Chinese land borders.
Here’s what you need to know about the e-Channel service, and how you can register on your next visit to Hong Kong.
e-Channel fast-track processing Hong Kong: who’s eligible?
Under recent changes to the e-Channel scheme, all Australian passport holders are eligible for registration, even on their first visit to Hong Kong, as are travellers with passports from South Korea and Germany.
If you’re not a citizen of those countries, a shiny frequent flyer card can be just the ticket, with the service also open to Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members, plus Air New Zealand Airpoints Silver, Gold and Elite flyers and all Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club members.
Joining that list are British Airways Executive Club Silver and Gold travellers, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold cardholders and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold, PPS Club and Solitaire PPS Club members, plus the frequent flyers of many other schemes.
Following the launch of non-stop Melbourne-Hong Kong flights, Australian Business Traveller understands that Virgin Australia is reviewing its e-Channel position, but is not currently part of the program.
You can also enrol if you hold an HKSAR Travel Pass, an APEC Business Travel Card endorsed with ‘HKG’, or an HKIA Frequent Visitor Card.
If that long list still doesn’t find you eligible for enrolment, you’ll be able to register after making three trips to Hong Kong via Hong Kong International Airport on the same passport within the 12-month period prior to your registration request.
Some arrangements are also in place for residents of Macau and Singapore, and for frequent Chinese mainland visitors from Hong Kong, which we won’t cover here.
Regardless of how you’re eligible, you’ll need to have no ‘adverse record’ in Hong Kong – which means no criminal history and no record of overstaying your welcome in the country – and your passport will need to be valid for at least six more months on the date you enrol.
The age at which you can enrol varies by eligibility, with Australian passport holders able to register from 16 years of age, Koreans from 17 years, Germans from 18 years, and most other travellers who qualify through frequent flyer status or the number of visits also from 18 years.
e-Channel fast-track processing Hong Kong: how to enrol
Most travellers will find it easiest to enrol upon arriving at Hong Kong International Airport.
Complete ‘manual’ passport control one last time – and before you walk through to the baggage hall, veer to the far left or the far right to find the e-Channel registration offices.
The North Hall office is open from 10am until 6pm, while the South Hall office is open from 7:30am until 11pm daily.
You can also enrol at Hong Kong Immigration Headquarters in downtown Hong Kong at Level 7, Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai from 8:45am to 5pm Monday to Friday, or at the arrival hall of Macau Ferry Terminal:
Wherever you enrol, you’ll need to present your passport, sign some paperwork, have your fingerprints scanned and have a photograph taken, which can take anywhere from five to 15 minutes.
If you’re qualified by way of frequent flyer status, APEC Business Travel Card, HKSAR Travel Pass or HKIA Frequent Visitor Card, you’ll need to present this card for verification also.
Once enrolled, a barcode will be affixed to the rear of your passport, enabling your access to the e-Channel lanes at Hong Kong International Airport, Macau Ferry Terminal, China Ferry Terminal, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal.
You can also use the fast-track lanes at Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, Hung Hom, Shenzhen Bay, Sha Tau Kok, Man Kam To and Lok Ma Chau – but if you’re travelling with others who are not yet enrolled in the scheme, you can still opt for manual processing at all border points to go through together.
Registration is valid until the expiry date shown on your passport photo page, so if your passport is replaced, you’ll need to complete the enrolment process again once your new passport is in-hand.
e-Channel fast-track processing Hong Kong: skipping the queues
Once enrolled, look for the e-Channel signs at Hong Kong passport control (both arrivals and departures), or for screens displaying ‘Enrolled Frequent Visitor’.
Note that some of the e-Channel lanes are reserved for Hong Kong residents and are not compatible with foreign passports – so if you notice this on the sign above, move to a different lane.
Then, simply insert your passport into the reader as shown, remove it when prompted and step through the first barrier.
The next step involves providing a fingerprint: in most cases, that’ll be your thumb or index finger, and once a match is confirmed, a small landing slip will be printed (upon arrival only) and the final gate will open.
If you are given a landing slip, take this with you and keep it with your passport for the duration of your Hong Kong stay.
Watch this one-minute video to see how everything works in practice:
You can use the e-Channel lanes an unlimited number of times while your enrolment is current – up to 10 years if you enrol when your passport is brand new – provided you always observe the immigration stay periods indicated on your landing slip and depart the country before the date shown.
As a bonus, there’s no need to complete a Hong Kong arrival or departure card when using the eChannel: you simply waltz on through like a local.