Increasing studies have indicated that circular RNAs (circRNAs) are important in cancer progression. However, few circRNAs associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) have been elucidated in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). In this study, we aimed to identify whether hsa_circ_0006948 promotes ESCC cell EMT and explore its biological mechanisms. We first screened circRNA expression profiles using a circRNA microarray, and found that the expression of a novel circRNA, hsa_circ_0006948, is increased in 153 ESCC tissues and cell lines compared with noncancerous tissues and cell lines. Additionally, high hsa_circ_0006948 levels were positively associated with lymphatic metastasis and poor prognosis. Functionally, the assays indicated that cell proliferation, migration and invasion were promoted by hsa_circ_0006948 both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, we analyzed the relationship between hsa_circ_0006948 and miR-490-3p through bioinformatics, luciferase reporter assays, RNA immunoprecipitation and qRT-PCR. We found that hsa_circ_0006948 could bind directly to miR-490-3p which targets the 3’UTR of the oncogene HMGA2 to induce EMT. In conclusion, hsa_circ_0006948 was overexpressed in ESCC tissues and promoted cancer progression, and it could induce EMT by enhancing HMGA2 by sponging miR-490-3p, suggesting that hsa_circ_0006948 could be a biomarker for ESCC.