If you travel a lot you see lots of long lines and many times you find yourself having to wait in said long lines. Nobody’s got time for that. Period end of story. On my last trip through Hong Kong, I noticed that they had an expedited customs line called e-Channel. That appeared to expedite your way though customs and immigration. The signage was not to clear as to who could use it, or at least to me after a 14-hour flight! So, I tried using the passport kiosk and was promptly denied since it didn’t recognize my passport. UUGH I felt like a total noob, but no one laughed at me, that I saw nor did an agent chastise me. Thanks for that. So, at this point I used the “normal” line and where I waited 10 minutes to talk to someone at a desk for 30 seconds where they scanned my passport, looked at my landing card and gave me a ticket and sent me on my way. Long gone are the days of a stamp in your passport ☹. Since I had a couple more trips planned through Hong Kong, I decided to investigate what e-Channel was since it might come in handy.
What is e-Channel
e-channel is an expedited process to enter and exit Hong Kong. It allows registered travelers from certain countries to scan their passport, boarding pass and thumbprint to enter and exit the country. All of this without having to speak to an agent. Basically, what this allows is incredibly quick entry and exit, which when you’re traveling thought the eight-busiest airport in the world can save lots of time. Consider it on par with Clear or E-Gate in Abu Dhabi. What I find in the hobby of air travel, is that the less you speak to border protection the better off you are. Not that I have anything to hide, but I just hate having to explain why I went to Dubai for eight hours or Shanghai to just experience Singapore Suites on the a380.
A passenger is eligible to enroll for the e-Channel service if fulfilling the following criteria:
(1) Aged 18 or above;
(2) Holding a valid travel document and where appropriate, valid multiple visit visa;
(3) Holding one of the following valid documents:
– HKSAR Travel Pass;
– APEC Business Travel Card with ‘HKG’ printed on the reverse side; or
– Frequent Flyer Program membership card issued by airlines which have joined this scheme (please enquire with airlines for details).
(4) For passenger not holding one of the documents mentioned in item (3) above:
– Holding a valid travel document which is not required to have entry visa / permit for entering the HKSAR; and
– Has 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.
(5) No adverse record in the HKSAR.
Or if you’re from the following countries they offer reciprocal benefits. Take note, the criteria’s slightly different for each one.
Republic of Korea
Republic of Singapore
Federal Republic of Germany
Kingdom of Thailand
I was hoping to use the frequent flyer option in part three. I’d only been to Hong Kong twice in 12 months, but was crossing my fingers that having American Airlines Executive Platinum status would be good enough.
How do you sign up/Where do you go
So, this was the tricky part. You have two options, in either case you must clear immigration either to enter or leave the country first. In my case I did this as soon as I arrived from Beijing and prior to exiting baggage claim. Once you clear immigration and prior to collecting your bags there are two enrollment centers one on the left and one on the right side. Depending on when you arrive/depart and what hall you go thought the hours vary. For me I got through immigration at 10:45 PM and the North Hall arrival location was open for 15 more minutes. So, I made a beeline to the office. As luck would have it, I was the only one at this hour looking to get the e-Channel sticker. The process overall took less than five minutes. I gave the agent my passport and AA frequent flyer card. He filled out a log sheet with my details, scanned my passport and reviewed my frequent flyer card. He noted that the hard card was expired and when I told him I didn’t have my 2019 card but had the digital one he didn’t flinch. He took my phone scanned it to his computer printed some forms for me to sign and took my thumbprints. Once that was done, he affixed a sticker to my passport and said I was done. That was it. Writing this post will take me longer then the entire process. I’ve read stories where people have had issues with digital frequent flyer cards or with only three visits not four in 12 months. But for me it was easy as could be.
Since I enrolled when entering the country, I was ale to use the e-Channel lane when I left for California the next day. All I had to do was locate the e-Channel lanes (which are very clearly marked). Scan my passport and boarding pass and then enter a double gated section. Inside the first section, a machine scanned my fingerprints approved my departure and the second gate opened. Viola that was it. Couldn’t have been easier at all. BTW I would have taken pictures of the process, but since they’re not allowed and I value not going to jail, I refrained. If you’re a frequent traveler and want to get to/from point A and B as timely as possible, then e-Channel is for you. As a free service eligible to a whole host of countries it’s worth the five minutes of your life enrolling.