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[How To]: Skip The Queue At Immigration and Use E-Channel

Life hacks!
Last updated: 2019-02-11
From the directly and minutely useful to information on living your best self in the world. How To is our regular column on how to accomplish things in the city.

The lines at immigration are a delectable experience — if you enjoy being treated like cattle. If you prefer expediency over a bovine good time, though, here's a five-minute process at Pudong Airport to register for the E-Channel gates at China's airports, saving you literally hours of precious, precious life. Life hacks!

Note: This guide was written for Pudong Airport Terminal 2, after an international flight. Registration should be possible at any airport that has E-Channel gates. Ask someone wearing a uniform about E-Channel registration and they should point you to the right desk.

Step 1: Check that you a) have a passport with a chip in it, and b) have a valid working/business visa. Check? Check.

Step 2: As you reach immigration following an international flight, don't go to the usual line the officer points you to, and instead head to counters 79-80. They read "E-Channel Registration" above them. Never noticed those, right?


Step 3: Fill in the form available on the counter to the right. It says you agree to give up your bio-data, including fingerprints and facial imagery. If you've passed immigration in the past, you've already done this.


Step 4: Hand the form, your passport (with valid visa), your finger prints and face to the official at the desk. They'll put you through one last, final, human-to-livestock check, register you, and approve the chip in your passport.

Step 5: Pass through the E-Channel. The lines here are always, always smaller than any of the others, and the fifteen-second process means it moves at a much faster clip. No more stamps, no more filling out arrival cards, no more waiting in line with the other herd beasts. Enter China as a human being with entire minutes of life to spend freely. Congratulations.

Optional Step: Chew cud as you wait around for your delayed luggage anyway.


Update: We've now tried it in Terminal 1. Unlike Terminal 2, Terminal 1 requires you to go through the regular immigration channel, then go to the small wooden desk at counter 31 to fill out the form. If there's no one manning the desk, ask at the supervisors island and an officer will come take care of you. The process is otherwise identical.


The E-Channel always works when entering the country. When leaving the country, however, it'll only work if the name on your passport exactly matches the name on your boarding pass. Those of us with longer names, where a couple letters might get cut off, might have to stand in line with the moo cows anyway.