There are immigration and customs controls of passengers and goods at all arrival and departure points in the territory. The Hong Kong International Airport is the control point for air passengers and goods. For sea-borne passengers and goods, there are the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, China Ferry Terminal, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal, Eastern Immigration Anchorage, Western Immigration Anchorage, and Tuen Mun Immigration Anchorage for clearance. Besides, there are Kwai Tsing Container Terminals and River Trade Terminal which are providing goods clearance. There are nine control points serving cross-boundary land traffic, viz Lo Wu, Hung Hom, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, West Kowloon Station of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, Man Kam To, Lok Ma Chau, Sha Tau Kok, Shenzhen Bay and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port.
Boundary Control : Air
Undesirable persons and prohibited goods are kept from entering the HKSAR through the Hong Kong International Airport by means of controls effected by the Immigration Department and the Customs and Excise Department respectively.
The Customs and Excise Department is the primary agency responsible for the suppression of smuggling activities at the Airport. The Department also acts as the front-line agency to prevent importation and exportation of prohibited articles concerning security, public health, environmental protection and international obligations.
The Immigration Department is also responsible for curbing illegal migration activities through the airport to fulfil the HKSAR's international obligations.
Operations of Air Control Point
Several categories of passengers are identified as undesirables, including doubtful visitors (bona fides of visit in doubt, potential overstayers, unapproved residence seekers and transit abusers), fraudulent travel document users coming for illicit activities, drug smugglers, alien smugglers and criminals.
To guard against their entry, all passengers have to go through immigration clearance procedures at the immigration counters at the Airport. Doubtful cases will be given secondary examination by immigration officers. A dedicated team of officers conducts detailed examinations on passengers from flights. Intercepted passengers not qualified for entry will be refused permission to land and removed to the last port or place of origin by the first available means.
To assist the immigration control officers in detecting forged travel documents, each immigration counter is equipped with an ultra-violet light. Hand-held security laminate verifiers are available at Duty Officer's office. Advanced equipment for forgery detection have been installed at both the frontline and backroom offices. These include Video Spectral Comparator for detecting counterfeit and altered travel documents as well as visas, and the Electronic Documentation Information System on Network (EDISON) which contains images of over 4,500 genuine and fake travel document samples from over 200 countries for verifying the security features of the documents in question.
Intelligence collation and analysis play an important role in combating illegal activities. Training programmes are organised regularly to keep our immigration officers abreast of the recent trends and modus operandi employed by forgers. Officers from the local consulates are also invited from time to time to give talks on forgery detection to our staff.
To take advantage of information technology to enhance our efficiency, document optical readers are widely used at all control points for reading machine readable passports and Hong Kong Identity Cards. In end-2005, the e-Channel, an automated system for self-service immigration clearance, was introduced in the Airport for use by Hong Kong residents. Since May 2008, the service has been extended by phases to eligible frequent visitors, Mainland visitors and Macao permanent residents. The new Immigration Control System (ICONS) has been implemented in phases since 2016 to enhance the operational efficiency of control points. The new system involves upgrading existing e-Channels to become multi-purpose e-Channels and introducing over 150 multi-purpose e-Channels, to enable flexible deployment of e-Channel services according to the passenger traffic pattern.
Boundary Control : Land
Land Boundary Control
The land boundary is constantly patrolled by the Hong Kong Police Force to detect illegal immigrants. The 35 km boundary fence erected along the land boundary is equipped with an array of technical aids which enables the Police to maintain vigilant control of the land boundary.
The Police's enforcement actions at the land boundary are supplemented by land use control. The land adjacent to the boundary has been designated as a Frontier Closed Area and is subject to access and development restrictions. This serves as an effective buffer zone to assist in combating illegal immigration and smuggling. These control measures have been proven effective.
In response to social development and demand, the Government has reduced the Frontier Closed Area in three stages, from about 2,800 hectares to about 400 hectares. The first stage of the Frontier Closed Area reduction was implemented in February 2012, about 740 hectares of land in Sha Tau Kok and Mai Po was excised. The second stage was implemented in June 2013, excised about 710 hectares of land around Lok Ma Chau. The third (final) stage was also implemented in January 2016, which excised about 930 hectares of land around Ta Kwu Ling.
Operations of Land Control Points
Of the nine land control points, Lo Wu, Hung Hom, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line and Express Rail Link West Kowloon, deal with railway passengers; while the other five control points (namely, Man Kam To, Lok Ma Chau, Sha Tau Kok, Shenzhen Bay and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge) control both vehicle and passenger movements.
There are altogether 489 immigration counters and 566 e-Channels (including 6 e-Channels for cross boundary students and 30 express e-Channels at Lo Wu Control Point, and 6 e-Channels for cross boundary students at Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point) for passenger clearance and 152 vehicle kiosks (among which 88 are equipped with vehicular e-Channels) for vehicle clearance in both directions at these control points. Eligible Mainland visitors, frequent visitors and Macao permanent residents may use e-Channels for immigration clearance. The e-Channels with voice navigation function are installed at Lok Ma Chau Spur Line and Shenzhen Bay Control Points for visually impaired persons.
Each counter and kiosk is equipped with a computer workstation and document optical reader, all linked up to a mid-range central hub and connected through a territory-wide network to other control points and the headquarters. Machine readable travel documents and Hong Kong Identity Cards are scanned by the document optical reader with the movement over the counter captured by the workstation.
Other than the advanced equipment installed at the control points, a set of forgery manuals listing details of the defects of forged travel documents and visas are available at the backroom for reference. All control officers are regularly briefed and trained on the latest trends and modes of forgery.
Boundary Control : Sea
Sea Boundary Control
The sea boundary is patrolled by the Marine Region of the Hong Kong Police, whose primary responsibilities are combating illegal immigration, smuggling and other crimes at sea. The Region is equipped with a modern fleet of police launches, smaller craft, operational barges and logistics barges. The fleet is centrally commanded from a state-of-the-art command and control centre, which integrates the latest day / night camera systems with digital radars to monitor Hong Kong waters. Marine Police have been actively engaged in combating illegal immigration and conducting multi-agency operations to combat smuggling activity at sea between the HKSAR and the Mainland. Smuggling cases arrested by the Marine Police are handed over to the Customs and Excise Department for prosecution and forfeiture proceedings.
Operations at Sea Control Points and Anchorages
Passengers arriving at the HKSAR by sea will receive immigration and customs clearance at the China Ferry Terminal, Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal. These passengers are subject to the same immigration and customs clearance as those who enter through the land and airport control points. Eligible Mainland visitors, frequent visitors and Macao permanent residents may use e-Channels for immigration clearance at the four control points. The e-Channels with voice navigation function are installed at Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal Control Point for visually impaired persons.
In respect of other incoming and outgoing cargo vessels, they are all required to go through immigration clearance at immigration anchorages unless otherwise directed or exempted. There are currently three immigration anchorages, namely Western Immigration Anchorage, Eastern Immigration Anchorage and Tuen Mun Immigration Anchorage. The Western Immigration Anchorage and Tuen Mun Immigration Anchorage provide services round the clock.
After completion of immigration clearance, incoming cargo vessels will proceed to the public cargo working areas for loading and unloading of cargo. Customs clearance are conducted at either the anchorages or the cargo working areas.
Under Immigration Department's "Pre-arrival Clearance" Scheme, approved ocean-going vessels and Mainland river / coastal trade vessels may proceed directly to Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, River Trade Terminal or mid-stream buoys for loading and / or unloading operation. All cargoes carried on board ocean-going vessels are subject to Customs clearance.