HK trials digital arrivals card, plans pre-clearance Chinese customs

New facilities at Hong Kong airport would allow inbound travellers to enter China as domestic passengers.

By Bloomberg News, July 26 2022
HK trials digital arrivals card, plans pre-clearance Chinese customs

Hong Kong will this week begin trialling an electronic health declaration form to replace the paper-based arrivals slip.

Similar to the digital systems adopted by many other countries around the world, it would record not only standard arrival, health and vaccination details but also a reference number for a quarantine hotel stay.

The new system will begin July 28 on a trial basis, the government said in a statement.

However, passengers will need to complete the form before boarding their flight, as it will generate a QR code needed to be allowed onto flights into the Asian financial hub, the government said. 

While most passengers already fill out the forms in advance, the few who don’t can slow the arrival process and lengthen the time travelers must spend at the Hong Kong International Airport, the statement said.

Passengers must still present documents and those without a QR code will be allowed to board during the trial period. 

Hong Kong’s extensive and specific rules around vaccinations, testing and quarantine hotel bookings have caused confusion and controversy for travelers, as mistakes can derail plans and sorting them out can cause airport backlogs. 

The city plans to fully implement the electronic declaration form in August, making the pre-boarding documentation verification system digital and reducing the manpower it currently takes to carry out.  

“Completing the health declaration prior to boarding allows smoother arrival quarantine procedures for inbound persons,” a government spokesperson said in the statement.

“It will also facilitate the gradual introduction of electronic processing of arrival quarantine procedures, thereby reducing the need for manual processing and hence the waiting time and bottlenecks.” 

Fast-track entry to China

Hong Kong is also considering introducing pre-clearance Chinese customs and immigration facilities in Hong Kong to make travel to and from the mainland easier. The measure, which would permit tavellers from Hong Kong to arrive in China as domestic passengers, is one of several planned to bring the Asian metropolis even closer to the mainland.

The Hong Kong Airport Authority also wants more transportation links between the airport and cities in Guangdong province, as part of the central government’s plan to integrate the region into what it calls the Greater Bay Area.

“All the money is spent well for the future,” said Algernon Yau, former CEO of Greater Bay Airlines who this month joined new Chief Executive John Lee’s government as Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development.

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