4 November 2022| Post by
China has announced a new electronic visa (e-Visa) for residents of the Chinese mainland to visit the autonomous city of Macau.
This online Macau visa became available from November 1, 2022.
China’s strict COVID-19 travel restrictions have been in force for over 2 years, restricting travel between the mainland and the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR).
During this period, residents of mainland China have been required to apply for a visa to visit Macau. The visa application had to be made in person until November 2022.
Now, China’s immigration bureau have launched an e-Visa system to make it easier for mainland residents to visit the MSAR.
Macau is well-known for its casinos, being the largest gambling hub in the world. Along with Hong Kong, the MSAR is one of China’s 2 autonomous regions, which operate under a separate economic and governmental system to the rest of the country.
Why Has China Introduced an e-Visa for Macau?
The new online visa is hoped to encourage a boost in tourism. In particular, the casinos, which have lost millions of dollars of revenue during the pandemic, are looking for an increase in visitors.
Mainland China and Macau have maintained tight COVID-19 travel restrictions during the past 2 and a half years of the pandemic. China has enforced a “zero-COVID” policy, which has included travel requirements, lockdowns, and mass testing.
This has had a huge impact on Macau’s economy, which is dependent on gambling.
People traveling from the Chinese mainland to Macau have been obliged to submit visa paperwork in person for the last 2 and a half years.
However, the immigration bureau has now deemed the situation in Macau to be stable.
Faced with an increasing demand to visit the autonomous city, Chinese authorities have made the decision to introduce an online visa service for Macau.
“This will be a great boon for Macau’s return to normalcy,” said DS Kim, a Hong Kong-based analyst at JP Morgan. “In a nutshell, we think the resumption greatly alleviates the frictions for a Macau trip… and could signal to many that ‘it’s OK’ to come to Macau now:”
Ongoing COVID-19 Concerns in Macau
Although the coronavirus situation in Macau is considered to be “stable”, a recent outbreak of the virus has shaken the region and came just before the e-Visa was announced.
The MGM Cotai casino resort was locked down by the authorities after a handful of positive test results. The MSAR had been free from COVID-19 cases for more than 3 months before this.
Over 1,500 staff and guests were quarantined inside over the last weekend of October. Meanwhile, all 700,000 residents of Macau had to take rapid antigen tests every day until given the all-clear, followed by an official PCR test on November 2.
There are still testing requirements for travelers entering Macau and returning to the Chinese mainland.
However, despite these concerns, the chances of infection in Macau remain very low.
The new e-Visa is expected to boost the number of visitors and revitalize the casinos and the economy.
Shares in Macau casinos rose between 2-5% on November 1, 2022 — the day the online visa was launched. The fact that the e-Visa grants easier access to the MSAR has been cited as a probable reason for this.
However, analysts urge caution and say that the e-Visa will not immediately return Macau to its pre-pandemic state.
Meanwhile, the 6 current casino operators are still awaiting a decision from the government on whether their licenses will be renewed for 2023. Those who do not receive a new license will be forced to vacate their premises.