Want to feel like a VIP when you get off the plane (even if you flew coach)? Skip the immigration lines before and after your flight by registering for the e-channel program. Yes, you, a foreigner! No, don’t pay any money! No, there is no horrible application or waiting period! No, you never have to fill out the little yellow departure and arrival cards ever again! No, this is not too good to be true (unless you are a tourist). For expats and frequent business travelers, this is a China life hack we can fully get behind.
How to Sign up for E-Channel Immigration Clearance
The easiest way to do this is when you are already at the airport coming back from a trip. As long as you are not on a tourist visa, and you have several months left of validity on both your passport and visa (if you’re not sure, check with the person stamping your passport), you can ask for the application form. Do this while you’re at immigration, before going to baggage claim. See picture below:
Once you’ve got the super quick form filled out, you just need to give it to the main person on duty – there is usually one person doing this at all times, and once you’ve got the form, you can just show it to any officer and they’ll point you in the right direction. There was a small line of two other foreigners doing this when we were there. This is all done at the immigration line area before you get your baggage, so don’t leave this area. There is no fee, they just will take another photo of you and do a fingerprint.
Why Spend the Time to Get E-Channel?
I too was skeptical, but once I got it set up (and saw the 200-person deep immigration line when i got off the plane)I was SO happy I had done this on my last trip. Seriously, just do it. No fee, almost no one in the E-Channel machines lines, and it takes less than a minute to get through. Again this works (in theory) both coming and going, so you basically only have to do the traditional security line.
One caveat that many foreigners will probably run into: When you are departing for your flight, you must scan your boarding pass. If your boarding pass doesn’t match up with your passport in any way (like if they shorten your middle name to an initial) you will get an error and have to use the regular channel. For Chinese people with character-based names, this is not likely to be a problem. Even so, to skip the line when you’re tired and just want to be home after a long flight, E-Channel is SO WORTH IT.
Also, your passport must be a chip-based one, but basically all of the new ones are. Again, this is only going to work if you are a Z-Visa holder or a frequent business traveler with extended periods on your passport and visa.
Photographic Evidence of Why You, Yes You, Should Sign up For E-Channel
Typical Immigration Line
Nobody At The E-Channel Line – GLORIOUS