LCQ11: Enhancing capacity and efficiency of immigration clearance at control points

     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (March 29):

     Some members of the tourism industry have relayed to me that encouraging regional tour groups (e.g. tour groups from Southeast Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand) to visit Hong Kong is highly conducive to revitalising tourism, and can alleviate the impact of the continuous drop in the number of Mainland travellers visiting Hong Kong in recent years on the tourism industry.  Besides visiting Hong Kong, tour groups of this type normally take the opportunity to make a short visit to places such as the Pearl River Delta and Macau for one day, and therefore they depart Hong Kong in the morning and arrive at Hong Kong again at night on the same day.  However, it is learnt that it often takes a long time for travellers holding foreign passports to go through immigration clearance.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the peak hours during which the aforesaid tour groups enter and leave Hong Kong through various boundary control points in the morning and at night every day;

(2) of the average daily number of travellers holding foreign passport entering and leaving Hong Kong during peak hours last year;

(3) of the average and longest waiting times for travellers holding foreign passports to go through immigration clearance at present; how such times compare with the relevant times taken by Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card holders; and

(4) whether it will increase the frontline manpower of the Immigration Department to shorten the time taken by travellers holding foreign passports to go through immigration clearance during peaks hours of inbound and outbound traffic, with a view to attracting more regional tour groups to visit Hong Kong?



     Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip is as follows:
(1) The peak hours of visitors' arrival and departure via land boundary or sea control points are usually from 8am to 12.30pm and from 4pm to 8.30pm.  The Immigration Department (ImmD) does not maintain the statistical breakdown on the arrival and departure peak hours for the tour groups mentioned in the question.
(2) In 2016, the average daily arrival of visitors from other countries or regions (excluding Mainland visitors) was 38 495 while the average daily departure was 38 440 (76 935 in total).  During the long-holiday peak periods (such as Christmas and New Year holidays), more than 94 000 arrivals and 108 000 departures had been recorded on individual days.
(3) The ImmD has set the following standard waiting time and achievement target for immigration clearance at the various control points:
Category of Travellers Control Points Standard Waiting Time
Hong Kong residents All control points 15 98 per cent of travellers
Visitors* Airport Control Point 15 95 per cent of travellers
Other control points 30 95 per cent of travellers
* Including Mainland visitors and visitors from other countries/regions
     In 2016, immigration clearance for all Hong Kong residents and 99.9 per cent of visitors was completed within the abovementioned standard waiting time.  All control points were able to meet the target set. 
(4) The ImmD takes timely measures and flexibly deploys its manpower at various control points in response to the passenger flow at different times and periods with a view to easing passenger traffic.  Measures taken include arranging its staff to work overtime during peak hours when necessary so that more counters for passenger clearance can be opened.  In addition, the ImmD will also streamline its workflow and make good use of information technology to promote efficiency and alleviate the pressure of frontline staff.
     To further enhance the capacity and efficiency of immigration clearance at control points, the ImmD has been implementing various immigration facilitating measures, including the launch of the Hong Kong Immigration Mobile Application in December 2013, which provides Hong Kong residents and visitors with the latest information on the estimated waiting time for immigration clearance at major land boundary control points. 
     In addition, the ImmD has also commenced the implementation of the New Immigration Control System by phases starting from 2016.  The implementation of the system is divided into three phases.  The works of the first and second phases were completed in June and October 2016 respectively.  They include the upgrade and integration of the hardware and software of various control point systems, the upgrade of all existing e-Channels at control points to multi-purpose e-Channels and the installation of 158 additional multi-purpose e-Channels, etc., bringing the total number of multi-purpose e-Channels at all control points to 595.  Upon the implementation of the new system, the hardware devices of e-Channels were upgraded and their processing time was reduced; frontline staff at control points can also deploy e-Channels more flexibly based on passenger flow to expedite immigration clearance of Hong Kong residents and visitors.    
     Items under the third phase will be implemented gradually in 2017-18, including the introduction of Self-Service Departure for Visitors, which will allow eligible visitors holding valid electronic travel documents to perform self-service departure clearance through e-Channels without prior enrolment.  This will further enhance the clearance efficiency and overall passenger handling capacity of various control points.
     The ImmD will continue to closely monitor the passenger arrival and departure situations as well as the effectiveness of various immigration clearance measures.  It will also keep under review its requirement of manpower and other resources in the light of the actual circumstances.

Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:40