For those who have crossed the border here a few times have noticed about half the border are these pods or plexiglass glass gates people are walking through. It’s a way to “skip” filling out the immigration form, talking to a customs official by simply placing your passport on the scanner, the door opens, and you then go inside the “pod”. In the pod they take your thumbprints and scan your face. Once they see this matches you on the file, the door to enter (or leave) China is complete. No stamps, no talking to a customs official, no customs forms, and normally no line or a very fast moving line.
Frequent traveling foreign passport holders with Z visas can apply to use the e-channel (the one with the Plexiglas gates) to speed through immigration lines upon returning to China.
The primary prerequisites for obtaining this permission is to have an “e-passport” enabled with a microchip and a valid visa and residence permit with at least six months of validity.