China’s National Immigration Administration announced on Tuesday, via mainland media, measures that should make it easier for mainland Chinese residents to apply either for a passport, or for the travel document required to travel to either Macau, Hong Kong or Taiwan. The new measures take effect on April 1.
Under them, mainlanders will be able – via the mainland city in which they currently live – to apply for either a passport, or the document known as the “Exit-entry permit for travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau”; or the relevant permit to travel to and from Taiwan. Previously, to perform those tasks, most mainlanders were required to travel to the place where they were officially registered as being resident. That is known in Mandarin as their place of “hukou”.
Due to the massive internal migration that has occurred in China in recent years, the country has millions of workers employed not in their city of official registration, but in another part of the nation. This can cause complications when it comes to access to government services in the place of migration.
Mainlanders wishing to travel to either Hong Kong or Macau have to bear a valid “Exit-entry permit for travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau” and an exit endorsement. The latter can come in one of several forms, including permits for individual visits, tour group visits, business visits, and family reunion.
Time, money saved
Citing officials from the National Immigration Administration, mainland media reports stated that under the new rules more than 21 million people in 2019 were likely to be able to apply for their travel documents via the cities where they currently live, rather than their place of hukou. The new rules publicised on Tuesday would allow the saving of more than CNY20 billion (US$2.98 billion) a year in aggregate in domestic travel expenses for mainland Chinese residents affected, according to media reports.
Immigration officials also announced on Tuesday that mainlander applicants wishing to go to Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan as part of a tour can apply for the required tour visa at automated machines.
China’s central government has in recent years implemented measures that were presented as attempts to ease certain exit visa arrangements for mainland residents.
Starting from September 1 last year, a programme began that allowed mainlanders seeking a visa to visit Macau, Hong Kong or Taiwan as part of a tour group to complete their permit application process in the city in which they lived. Also, since that date, some mainlanders had already been able to renew their “Exit-entry permit for travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau” or the permit to travel to Taiwan via the cities in which they were residing, rather than the place in which they were registered.
In March 2016, China’s Ministry of Public Security had announced a policy that enabled some of the country’s better-off internal migrants to apply for an Individual Visit Scheme (IVS) permit for trips to Macau and Hong Kong via the city in which they were living. But the measure was only available in cities above county level that issued residence permits to domestic migrant workers, the ministry said at the time.
The IVS exit visa programme remains limited to selected Chinese cities deemed to have high levels of social and economic development.
Mainland China has for years been the dominant source market for tourists using Macau’s casino and tourism facilities. In the first two months of this year, Macau received more than 6.97 million visitors, of which 73 percent or 5.06 million were from mainland China, according to data from Macau’s Statistics and Census Service. About 45 percent of those 5.06 million Chinese visitors came from Guangdong province next door to Macau.
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