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After a long flight to Hong Kong, the last thing you want to face is a long queue at immigration – thankfully, your Australian passport lets you take the fast track through Hong Kong airport’s time-saving automated ‘frequent visitor’ e-Channel gates.
Australia is among a handful of countries which can access the “automated immigration clearance service on a reciprocal basis” – the other qualifying passports are from Germany, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
Travellers from other countries can enrol for e-Channel access on the strength of their frequent flyer status – and while the Hong Kong government doesn’t publish a list of which airlines’ loyalty programs qualify, Executive Traveller understands the following all make the cut:
- Air New Zealand Airports Silver, Gold and Elite tiers
- British Airways Executive Club Silver and Gold tiers
- Cathay Pacific’s Cathay Silver, Gold and Diamond tiers
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold, PPS Club and Solitaire PPS Club tiers
- Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold, Platinum and Platinum One tiers
- United Airlines’ MileagePlus Premier Silver and all Premier tiers
Mid- and high-tier frequent flyers on other international airlines may also qualify, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to apply on that basis – especially as the registration process is fairly quick and completely free.
Enrolling your Australian passport for e-Channel access
You can register your Australian passport for e-Channel lane access on arrival at Hong Kong airport, or at the Immigration Headquarters building in Wan Chai.
In both cases you need only present your Australian passport, complete a form which will be supplied to you at the registration deck, have a photo taken and have your fingerprints scanned (both your photo and fingerprints are used for biometric ID at the immigration lanes).
Remember: this same process also applies if you’re holding a German, Singaporean, South Korean or Thai passport.
There are two e-Channel enrolment offices at Hong Kong airport – both are located after you clear immigration but before the luggage belts:
- the Arrival North office, on the left side of the arrivals hall, is open daily from 10am to 6pm
- the Arrival South office, on the right side of the arrivals hall, is open daily from 7:30am to 11pm
(To make things a little easier, on your arrival at Hong Kong airport, veer to an immigration checkpoint on the same side as the e-Channel enrolment office you intend to visit: for example, if you’re coming in on an early morning evening flight, head to an immigration checkpint on the right, as the Arrival South enrolment office is the only one of the two open at those times.)
However, you might not want to go through this after a long flight – you could be in more of a mood to be on your way into the city (especially if you don’t need to wait around for checked luggage) for a meeting, dinner with friends or the comfort of your hotel bed.
That’s certainly how I felt after my first post-pandemic visit to Hong Kong, after almost three years away – during which time my passport had expired, so it was necessary to enrol my new passport in the e-Channel program.
Rather than wait around at the airport, I decided to visit the Hong Kong government’s Immigration Headquarters in Wan Chai, which is open Monday to Friday from 8.45am to 5pm.
The tall black building is located at 7 Gloucester Road, and one of the easiest ways to get there is via the overhead walkway from Wan Chai MTR station.
This takes you to the upper floor of Immigration Headquarters, so you’ll then need to don down the stairs to the main lobby and take an elevator to the seventh floor.
When the lift arrives on level seven, do a sharp U-turn to the right and you’ll end up at a small e-Channel enrolment office.
After handing over the completed registration form and my passport, having a photo snapped and my fingerprints scanned, my passport was returned within minutes with a sticker declaring it was “successfully enrolled for e-Channel service”.
And that’s all it takes. Once your passport is endorsed you can sidestep the usual airport passport lanes for foreigners and make a beeline for the dedicated ‘Frequent Visitor e-Channel’ gates.
As a bonus, there’s no need to complete a Hong Kong arrival card once you’ve been approved for e-Channel lanes – just waltz on through like a local.
For more information, visit the Hong Kong Government e-Channel Services for Visitors web page.