Smartcard Immigration Coming to Macau

Getting to Macau from Mainland China is going to get easier with the coming introduction of electronic immigration. The system could be up and running at border crossings next month and will allow visitors going both ways to use a smartcard instead of traditional passport-like booklets.

The government of China’s Guangdong province is replacing exit-entry booklet permits with a new smartcard system for travelers to and from Hong Kong and Macau.

The card will allow residents of Macau’s neighboring mainland province, those traveling as individuals and with tour group as well, to participate in a new e-channel immigration program that is expected to reduce lines at the checkpoints and dramatically shorten the time it take to cross the border both ways.

Thirty percent of e-channel machines on the China side of the Macau border have been fitted out and tested with the new software, according to reports, and depending on technological coordination with the Macau side, it is possible that the new system could be operational as soon as next month on both sides of the border.

There are currently 180 e-channels across the neighboring city of Zhuhai on the China side of the border: 120 at the Border Gate at the north end of the Macau peninsula and another 60 spread among the Hengqin, Wanzai and Jiuzhou ports. (Jiuzhou provides ferry access to Hong Kong only).

The transition from paper-based permits will take some time, though, as the traditional travel permits are good for five years, and current rules allow only new applicants or those with an expired booklet (or with validity of less than one year) to apply for the smartcard.

Guangdong represents the largest share of total mainland visitors to Macau. In 2013, the province accounted for 44 percent of all Chinese visitors, 68 percent of whom arrived on the Individual Visit Scheme and 41 percent with tour groups.