Human amniotic epithelial cells (hAECs) are potentially one of the key players in tissue engineering due to their easy availability. The aim of the present study was to develop an optimal isolation and transportation technique, as well as to determine the immunophenotype and epithelial gene expression of hAECs. Amnion was mechanically peeled off from the chorion and digested with trypsin-ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. The isolated hAECs were cultured in medium containing 10 ng/mL epidermal growth factor until P4. The epithelial gene expression, cell surface antigen and protein expression of hAECs were analyzed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction, flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry. hAECs were also cultured in adipogenic, osteogenic and neurogenic induction media. The best cell yield of hAECs was seen in the digestion of 15 pieces of amnion (2 × 2 cm) and isolated 30 min after digestion with trypsin. F12:Dulbecco's modified eagle medium was the best medium for short term storage at 4 °C. hAECs expressed CD9, CD44, CD73 and CD90, and negligibly expressed CD31, CD34, CD45 and CD117. After serial passage, CK3, CK19 and involucrin gene expressions were upregulated, while p63, CK1 and CK14 gene expressions were downregulated. Sustained gene expressions of integrin β1 and CK18 were observed. At initial culture, these cells might have stem-like properties. However, they differentiated after serial passage. Nonetheless, hAECs have epithelial stem cell characteristics and have the potential to differentiate into corneal epithelial cells. Further investigations are still needed to elucidate the mechanism of differentiation involved and to optimize the culture condition for long term in vitro culture.