For those who have crossed the border here a few times have noticed about half the border are these pods or plexiglass glass gates people are walking through. It’s a way to “skip” filling out the immigration form, talking to a customs official by simply placing your passport on the scanner, the door opens, and you then go inside the “pod”. In the pod they take your thumbprints and scan your face. Once they see this matches you on the file, the door to enter (or leave) China is complete. No stamps, no talking to a customs official, no customs forms, and normally no line or a very fast moving line.
Frequent traveling foreign passport holders with Z visas can apply to use the e-channel (the one with the Plexiglas gates) to speed through immigration lines upon returning to China.
The primary prerequisites for obtaining this permission is to have an “e-passport” enabled with a microchip and a valid visa and residence permit with at least six months of validity.
You have to sign up when arriving on an international flight. When you get to the immigration area, go to the e-channel lanes. One of the booths next to the E-channel lanes is for E-channel registration. Talk to one of the officers and they’ll get you setup. There is no fee, and the form is in Chinese and English. The application form is essentially a consent form permitting the registering officer to collect “biodata,” (photo & thumbprints).
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. The entire process takes about 10 seconds.
One of the problems with the e-channel is that you don’t have a stamp in your passport and so while it may make your airport experience easier and faster to go through the ec-hannel, there are many aspects of life in China that we still need to prove that entry stamp, such as local police registration for the temporary certificate (when renting an apartment, etc); at the bank for certain transactions; at a hotel, etc.
New Visa – Need to Re-Apply
If you get a new China visa, you need to re-apply to the e-channel. You need to take a new photo, new fingerprints, and wait for it to activate – same as if I applied for the first time.