Life in the Fast Lane: China e-Channel Border Crossing Service Extended to Foreigners

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By Patrick Schreiber

As of July 25, 2016, Chinese border control extended the Automated Passenger Clearance System service to foreigners at many frequently used border crossing points across the country. The ‘e-channel’ service has been used in Hong Kong and Macau since 2002 and limited to Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau identity card holders, but due to the recent increase of foreign travelers crossing between borders, the option is also available for foreigners who are in possession of an e-passport and a long term visa. The e-channel service can now be found at airport immigration points and at the Mainland China-Hong Kong border, simplifying border crossing procedures for foreign business people and long-term residents, significantly reducing crossing time.

Application process

Application for the e-channel facility can be made at several border offices. Registration is free, but the application procedure and all customer related communication is only provided in Chinese. Applicants are required to be in possession of:

  • A new biometric passport (e-passport): this can be identified by the microchip symbol on the front.
  • A valid visa with at least six months of validity and its corresponding residence permit.

The application process includes filling out and signing an application form, having a photograph taken of the applicant’s face, and scanning both thumb prints. After successful registration, applicants will be able to use the e-channel the next day without further requirements, as information will be stored in the passport microchip. For cancellation of the e-channel service, the frequent visitor is able to apply for a cancellation form and can submit it to the immigration staff at the e-Channel Enrolment Office. Additionally, further documents may be required for proof of identity of the submitting person.

It must be noted that certain types of passports are not compatible with the e-channel system.

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Using the e-channel

At the e-channel terminal, travelers are required to scan the passport photo page at the receptacle. This will open the door to the e-channel. Inside, a scan of one’s face will be taken as well as of the thumbs on a fingerprint scanner. Once successfully scanned and proven a match, the exit doors will open, and the traveler can proceed over the border. In case of any problems at the e-channel, the normal border crossing channel will need to be taken.


China’s entry and exit figures have grown by over 50 percent since 2008, but border control have only hired 20 percent more personnel. Expansion of the e-channel system will not only alleviate the work load for border control, but will also cut border crossing times and facilitate faster flow of travelers. For foreign business executives who are on a working visa or residence permit in China, the new system will guarantee a much smoother experience. However, it is important to understand the visa requirements and passport compatibility for the e-channel before applying at the customs office.


Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

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