Shenzhen people adopting smart way to renew visas
Guangdong people living in Shenzhen can now use WeChat to renew their individual visas for travel to Macau or Hong Kong, and the convenience of the visa renewal service has made it popular.
The Shenzhen branch of Express Mail Service (EMS), which is run by China Postal Express & Logistics Co Ltd, introduced the service last week.
“Since we launched the WeChat service over a hundred users have been approaching us every day for visa renewals,” a member of the Shenzhen branch’s customer service staff told Business Daily.
“The service has got quite a huge response,” the staff member said.
Some mainlanders are allowed visas to travel to Macau as individuals rather than as members of tour groups, who travel on collective visas.
Once a resident of Shenzhen has added the EMS Shenzhen branch’s WeChat account to his or her contact list, the resident can apply to renew his or her individual visa by filling in an electronic form.
Successful applicants get their renewals after five working days.
EMS’s Shenzhen branch is the first business to introduce such a service using WeChat, a text and voice messaging application for smartphones.
“So far we have heard nothing about the WeChat service for individual visa renewal being expanded outside Shenzhen,” the staff member said.
“And we are serving only Guangdong people that are living in Shenzhen and have a valid address here,” she said.
“For now, the service is limited to renewal of individual travel visas.”
A Shenzhen resident cannot use WeChat to obtain his or her first individual visa or other sorts of documents needed for travel to Macau or Hong Kong.
WeChat’s walkie-talkie-like voice message retention function has made the app popular in the mainland.
People can use WeChat to share their personal status from day to day, like users of Weibo and Facebook can – or could, if Facebook was not banned in the mainland.
The central government has embraced WeChat, using it to disseminate official information.
A year ago the State Council began using WeChat to publish regulations.
A lecturer in e-government and new media at the University of Macau, Raymond Lai Fei Loi, expects EMS’s WeChat visa renewal service to be limited to Shenzhen for the time being.
“I think the identity verification process is still a problem that must be overcome to make it more prevalent countrywide,” Mr Lai told Business Daily.
“There has also been news from the mainland about people creating fake government WeChat accounts to carry out scams,” he said.
“So there is still a danger there for users in exchanging information on the platform, unless the government makes a clear announcement about opening an official account.”
What measures have been taken to protect the personal data of users of EMS’s WeChat visa renewal service was unclear by the time Business Daily went to press.
“Some of China’s eastern coastal cities have already talked about wanting to use WeChat as a platform to handle administrative affairs,” Mr Lai said.
“I think this is possible, but it has not become a widespread practice yet,” he said.