A credit-scoring mechanism of Ant Financial Services Group now allows Chinese travelers to circumvent the need to submit bank statements when applying for Canadian visitor visas.
Users of Zhima Credit with a score of 750 or higher can generate a free report containing their identity and financial status via Ant’s Alipay mobile wallet. An English-language report can be submitted in lieu of bank statements to show their financial standing during visa applications.
Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma proposed easier visa application procedures when he was in a dialogue with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year.
The service is currently only available for Canadian visas, with more countries in the pipeline, according to Ant Financial.
Alipay is working on making international travel easier for Chinese nationals. The app’s in-store payment service covers over 40 countries and regions across the world, and tax reimbursement via Alipay is supported in 29 countries and regions.
“Using technology, data and its influence, Alipay is transforming beyond a pure play finance solution provider into an all-rounded app dealing in multiple daily needs,” said Li Chao, a fintech analyst at iResearch. “Initiatives like this can pave the way for Alipay to march into other business realms in the future.”
The Zhima Credit Scores range between 350 and 950 and are built from 5 factors:
- Credit History
- Where possible, the traditional credit scoring method is used
- Does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time?
- Have they defaulted on a loan?
- Fulfilment capacity
- Defined as “a user’s ability to fulfill their contract obligations”. This has been a key selling point for businesses to use this metric to rate their potential customers
- Personal Characteristics
- Is the citizen’s mobile phone number verified?
- Is the citizen registered at the address they claim to be at?
- Behaviour and Preference
- Shopping habits using services like Alibaba can paint a remarkable picture
- Online behaviour including streaming media and gaming
- Interpersonal Relationships
- Perhaps the most controversial of them all
- Your interactions, posts and the behaviours/scores of your friends can indirectly affect your score!
The subtle cleverness of this soft Zhima Credit launch should not be understated, as users have been scrambling to willingly sign up for the current service while there seem to be no substantial drawbacks. It has been described by many as basically a loyalty scheme for an entire country, sponsored by certain companies:
- 600+ points – take out a Just Spend loan of up to 5,000 yuan (around £565) to use to shop online, as long as it’s on an Alibaba site
- 650+ points – rent a car without leaving a deposit. You are also entitled to faster check-in at hotels and use of the VIP check-in at Beijing Capital International Airport
- 666+ points – get a cash loan of up to 50,000 yuan (£5,700), obviously from Ant Financial Services
- 700+ points – you can apply for Singapore travel without supporting documents such as an employee letter
- 750+ points – you can get fast-tracked application to a coveted pan-European Schengen visa