Alibaba unit to start credit-based visa application services for Luxembourg
Anyone planning to apply for a Schengen visa through Sesame Credit Management, a consumer credit agency backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, may have to wait for another two months.
OnWednesday, an employee, surnamed Chen, from the Consulate General of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in Shanghai, told China Daily that the credit-based visa application process for Chinese tourists is yet to start.
“Sesame Credit is still working on the necessary infrastructure for the online application platform and we expect to roll out the service by the end of August or in early September,” Chen said.
The credit-based visa application service is an initiative jointly launched by Sesame Credit, a business unit under Ant Financial, owner of the nation’s largest mobile payment platform Alipay, and the consulate of Luxembourg in Shanghai.
It allows Chinese with a certain credit score to apply for Luxembourg visas through Alitrip, the online travel booking platform under Alibaba. The consulate will accept a Sesame Credit report as proof of financial capability, without requiring employment certificates, household registration certificates and other documents.
Earlier, Sesame Credit said the service would be operational by the end of June. The delay in the roll out means a large number of Chinese parents who wanted to take their children to Europe for summer vocations cannot utilize the new visa channel for the time being.
In 2014, the number of outbound travelers fromChina crossed the 100 million mark for the first time, and the total is expected to reach 135 million this year, representing a 16.8 percent year-on-year growth, according to data from the China Tourism Academy.
The tie-up with the consulate is a major push by Sesame Credit to give eligible Chinese residents increased conveniences to travel abroad by lowering the barriers for travel visas.
Visa officials said when the service is officially launched, all Chinese travelers who want to use the new channel to expedite their visa application process will have to apply through the consulate in Shanghai, because Sesame Credit has not inked a deal with the Luxembourg Embassy in Beijing.
Ma Tengfei, a sales manager at Dalian Travel Agency in Shenzhen, said using the scoring system provided by credit agencies will greatly reduce the hassles and time needed to prepare documents and will prompt more Chinese to travel to Europe.
Utilizing data from online shopping records and online financial behavior, Sesame Credit measures users’ credit from five aspects — credit history, behavioral habits, ability to pay off debts, personal information and social networks. Each user can get a credit rating of between 350 and 950.
The newservice is part of Sesame Credit’s broad efforts to expand the commercial application of credit in China. InMay, the company inked a deal with baihe.com, a dating website in China, to add Sesame Credit to its users’ resumes in the hope of helping people find true love online.
Sesame Credit has also partnered with leading hotels and car-renting companies to provide better services to its users, enabling consumers with a certain level of credit score to check into hotels and rent cars without paying a guarantee deposit.
Ma Si contributed to this story.