China will issue smart cards to gradually replace the current paper permits for those commuting between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau, the Ministry of Public Security of China announced on Monday.
The ministry plans to pilot the new permit in Guangdong, a province in south China adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau, and local police agencies will accept applications for the e-permit starting May 20.
Similar to an e-passport, the new permit has an integrated circuit chip containing personal information, fingerprints and entry endorsement of the card holder, according to the ministry.
The mainland and Hong Kong and Macau have witnessed closer exchanges and a rising number of visits in recent years.
In 2013, visitor arrivals from the mainland to Hong Kong increased by 16.8 percent year on year to about 40.5 million, while arrivals from the mainland to Macau increased by 10 percent year on year to more than 18.63 million.
The e-permit, which enables holders to use e-Channel service with fingerprint verification, is expected to improve efficiency in issuing documents and official inspection at the checkpoints, the ministry said in a statement.
The e-permit’s period of validity for citizens 16 years old or above will be extended from the current five years to ten. For those under 16, the permit will still be valid for five years.
As special administrative regions of China, Hong Kong and Macau have maintained their own border controls after they were returned to the motherland in 1997 and 1999, respectively.
The current paper permit was put into use on Jan. 1, 2002.(macaunews)