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Fast lanes cut waits to re-enter country

Yu Ran
Updated: Aug 20,2016 10:00 AM     China Daily

It’s getting easier for foreign residents to enter China at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. As of Aug 19, some expats will be allowed to use self-service immigration lanes that cut long waits down to just seconds.

But there are certain conditions.

Only foreigners with valid residence permits of more than six months are eligible. And they must be holders of e-passports, biometric passports that store on electronic chips data concerning their facial features and fingerprints.

In addition, eligible foreigners will have to put their fingerprints on record.

But once they meet all these conditions, foreign residents of China can use the self-service lanes to scan their passports as well as scan their fingerprints and faces-to compare with the data on the passport-and then get through the immigration inspection within seconds.

The program is an extension of one that previously applied only to Chinese citizens and foreigners who have permanent residency visas in China.

“The greater range of the convenience policy will benefit more passengers ... who permanently work and live in Shanghai with faster entry through immigration control,” said Zhang Baoke, deputy director of the Shanghai Airport Immigration Inspection Station.

Naeim Mahdavi, a Canadian teacher who works at the High School Affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, had his fingerprints recorded in the system so he can use the fast lanes in the future. He said he passes through immigration at least four or five times a year.

“Sometimes I arrive with my Chinese friends. They line up for just five minutes to go through but it takes me much longer. Now I can just come straight through, and they don’t have to waste time waiting for me,” he said.

In 2016, the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection launched 12 new self-service lanes in Terminal 1 at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, along with 15 self-service lanes previously introduced in Terminal 2, to deal with the inbound crowds of passengers.

In the first half of this year, more than 1 million travelers passed through the self-service lanes, 60 percent more than in the same period last year.

The daily average number of people using the self-service lanes jumped from 3,000 to 7,000 in that time.

“We’re still collecting data to get ready for the introduction of self-service lanes for both entry and exit passengers,” Zhang said.

In the past half, the inbound and outbound passenger traffic in Shanghai reached 28.5 million, a 15 percent year-on-year increase, and it is expected to exceed a record high of 40 million this year.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport also has seen in- and outbound passenger traffic surge. Between July 1 and August 18, immigration control at the airport has handled 5.1 million passengers, with a daily average of 105,000.