The gambling haven and resort metropolis of Macao is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, but can travelers visit without a visa? For the vast majority of travelers, the answer is yes. While Macao is technically a part of China as a Special Administrative Region, the tourism and visa policies of Macao differ from Mainland China and nearby Hong Kong.
Citizens from 76 countries can enter Macao without a visa, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, EU countries, the U.K., Japan, India, and many others. The length of time a traveler is permitted to stay without a visa depends on their nationality. U.S. citizens can stay for 30 days, EU citizens for 90 days, and visitors with a British passport for up to six months. The full list of visa-exempt countries and limits of stay can be found on the website for the Macao Public Security Police Force.
If you intend to stay longer than the visa-free period, you will need to obtain an extension from immigration services. You also will need a visa if you plan to work or study in Macao.
Visitors, workers, students, or family members coming from Mainland China have a completely different process to follow, which involves getting an Exit-Entry Permit—colloquially known as the "Two-Way Permit"—from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security at home before heading to Macao. Citizens of Mainland China do not need this permit if they are only stopping in Macao en route to another destination.
|Visa Requirements for Macao|
|Visa Type||How Long Is It Valid?||Required Documents||Application Fees|
|Tourist Visa||Up to 30 days||Visa on arrival for non-exempt nationals||100 Macanese pataca|
|Study Visa||Duration of program||Letter of acceptance into educational institution with duration of program||Free|
|Work Visa||Varies||None||100 Macanese pataca|
|Family Reunification Visa||Varies||Letter from other parent (if applicable), proof of family relation||Free|
The tourist visa—officially known as an "entry permit" in Macao—is for foreign nationals visiting Macao who are not from a visa-exempt country. In most cases, the entry permit can be obtained upon arrival in Macao and lets visitors stay for up to 30 days. The fee for the entry permit is 100 Macanese patacas for an individual, or about $12, but there are discounts available. Young children only pay 50 patacas while families traveling together pay 200 patacas for all members.
The only exception to getting an entry permit on arrival is for travelers who have passports from Bangladesh, Nigeria, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Nationals from one of these six countries must apply for a visa at the Chinese consulate that corresponds to where they live.
Students who have been accepted into a program of higher education must apply for a "special authorization to stay for non-resident students," which is similar in effect to a student visa. Unlike visas in most countries, students coming to Macao apply for their authorization to stay after arriving in the country. If you're coming from a visa-exempt country, you can enter Macao as a tourist and then submit your application to stay.
The documents you'll need to submit to the immigration office are:
- Completed application
- Letter of acceptance into higher education program that states duration of studies
- Recent photograph (1.5 inches)
- Valid passport
- Arrival card received when entering Macao
Applying to stay as a student is free and the processing time takes about 30 days. If you're from a country that only lets you stay as a tourist for 30 days—such as the U.S.—you should submit your paperwork as soon as you arrive in Macao to avoid overstaying your original entry.
Student authorizations generally expire on the day your studies are scheduled to end, so students have to be ready to leave immediately when classes finish. However, applying for an extension is painless if your studies continue longer than expected.
In most cases, the university you'll be attending assists with this process. The school can even submit the paperwork on behalf of the students, minimizing the number of times they have to visit the immigration office and avoiding needless headaches.
Non-Macanese workers must have a "non-resident worker's card" in order to reside and earn a living in Macao, which is commonly known as the "blue card." Obtaining one of these cards is relatively simple for the resident because the application process has to be initiated by the hiring company.
The application process takes place in two parts. After the employer submits the original paperwork and your completed application, the immigration office will quickly give a preliminary decision, oftentimes right in the moment. If they accept the original paperwork, the non-resident is given a temporary authorization to stay and work in Macao while the agency conducts a more thorough background check, which is the second part of the process and takes up to two months to complete.
If the second check returns with a favorable result, the non-resident is given permission to stay in Macao for a period of time determined by the immigration office based on the employment contract, which is printed on the blue card. If the non-resident continues working for the same employer beyond the expiration date, they can apply for an extension with an updated work contract.
The charge for obtaining the blue card is 100 Macanese patacas, or about $12.
Family Reunification Visa
Residents living in Macao—whether they are Macanese citizens, permanent residents, or blue card holders—are permitted to bring eligible family members with them including their spouse, cohabitating partner, children under the age of 18, and parents (Macao does not recognize same-sex relationships).
The process can be complex and has all types of intricacies depending on the nationality of the sponsor, the nationality of the applicant, the relation of the applicant, and the type of residency the sponsor has, with the last-mentioned factor carrying the most important distinction. The eligible family members of Macanese citizens or permanent residents apply for permanent residency as well, while the eligible family members of non-resident workers (or blue card holders) can only stay in Macao for the same time frame as the sponsoring family member.
Regardless of the application process, you'll need documentation that proves the kinship between the sponsor and applicant, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or a testified document that declares cohabitation. These documents will also need to be authenticated by the issuing government, such as with an apostille.
The fee for bringing a family member to Macao is 100 Macanese patacas—about $12—for permanent residency applicants and free for family members of blue card holders.
Visitors who overstay their time in Macao can be charged a penalty of 500 Macanese patacas per additional day, which is about $63. Overstayers can also be immediately deported and have difficulties returning to Macao in the future.
If you come from a visa-exempt country, however, this is easy to avoid. The time you're allowed to be in Macao resets each time you enter the country, so you only need to leave and come back—taking the bus or ferry to Hong Kong is a quick and easy way to do just that. This is a valid method for someone who wants some more time to travel in Macao, but re-entering the country shouldn't be used as a loophole for living, working, or studying in Macao without the appropriate visa. If you're caught using the visa for the wrong purpose, you may be imprisoned and deported.
Extending Your Visa
If you need more time in Macao than originally permitted, you can apply for an "extension of authorization to stay." The extension is free to request, but it must be submitted at least five days before the current authorization expires. For example, a U.S. citizen who can enter Macao without a visa for 30 days but wants to stay longer must submit the extension request on or before their 25th day in Macao.
The reason for the request must be justified and proven with documentation, such as a medical reason or taking care of a family member. The petition is completely at the discretion of the immigration official and it may be denied if the reasoning is considered groundless.