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MICE insiders want visa policy overhaul

The gov’t wants to diversify the economy. And the MICE sector is one viable avenue. But the visa policy regarding business travellers has to move with the times, say industry insiders. A multiple entrance visa valid for a year is the answer, they say.

An Italian businessman was conducting frequent business trips to Macau. In a short period of time he entered Macau for the third time but was told at Immigration that after his current entry permit had expired he would have to leave Macau and stay out of the territory for at least 50 days before re-entering. A complaint was subsequently received by Macau Convention and Exhibition Association and the Association of Advertising Agents of Macau. The president of the Macau Convention and Exhibition Association, Alan Ho Hoi Meng, told Business Daily that Macau should study the possibility of issuing multiple entrance visas to business travellers that were valid for a year instead of simply granting a certain period of stay for visitors exempted from visas to better facilitate businessmen coming to Macau on legitimate business and investment trips. “Currently, Macau has no business visa for overseas buyers or investors”, said Mr. Ho. “Even though some are exempted from visas, if they come too often there is a possibility that they will be denied entry. It’s very inconvenient”. It was not a singular case. Jean Jacques Verdun, a Frenchman living in Mainland China, is the founder of Delta Bridges Media Ltd. The company was established in Macau in 2008 and focuses on the Chinese and expat business community. He told Business Daily that even though he himself has never encountered any problem when entering Macau with a passport since he has his own business in Macau he has heard of complaints from other expats that were denied entry to Macau when travelling into the SAR too often or staying too long. “I think it’s understandable that the authorities deny their application”, said Mr Verdun. “Some of them stay in Macau for the maximum three months time and apply again right away. It’s as if they were living here. I have never had any problem entering Macau when visiting the city for a few days just for business trips”. The Immigration Department of the Public Security Police Force told Business Daily that visitors that are exempted from a visa would be issued authorisation to stay upon arrival for generally 30 days to a maximum of 90 days. The hold is entitled to multiple entries within the limit of stay granted. However, it is in their administrative regulations that if the authorities are in doubt about a visitor’s trip purpose or if they suspect the person is circumventing certain regulations and trying to stay in Macau and enter and exit the SAR frequently without proper explanation the person would be denied entry or informed to stay out of Macau for a certain amount of time. The Labour Affairs Bureau further explains that under the following circumstances a person that is not coming to Macau to travel doesn’t need to apply for any special permit: participating in convention and exhibition events that are approved by local authorities; cultural or academic exchange; sent by a foreign company that has an agreement with a Macau company and is in Macau for assisting or training programmes. These individuals can stay in Macau for a total of 45 days within a span of six months. Other cases such as working or self-employed individuals have to go through the Macau Government Human Resources Office to apply for certain documents and then approach Immigration for permission to stay. Alan Ho indicated that Macau’s visa policies are relatively open as people from many countries in Europe, Southeast Asia and many other places are exempted from visas. But with Macau boosting its convention and exhibition sector as well as enhancing its role as a business and trade platform, more foreign business travellers and investors are coming to Macau on a regular basis, even regularly travelling between Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. “The restriction on entering Macau could hurt the business and investors’ impression of Macau,” said Mr. Ho. “We are meeting four legislators at the China Chamber of Commerce meeting on 14 January. It’s our intention to bring this concern of ours to the legislators so that they can reflect it to the Public Security Police Force”.