Sesame Credit (Ant Financial) has won the confidence of the government of Canada. The Canadian Government has begun allowing Chinese visa applicants to submit a credit report from Sesame Credit as “proof of financial standing.” Traditionally, only bank documents could be used, but a recent change by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) allows Sesame documentation instead, although bank documents can still be used.
A specially generated report, created by Sesame Credit (Ant Financial) and, for now, used only for Canada, “contains information needed by IRCC to process a client’s application, such as spending history, assets and bill payment history,” Béatrice Fénelon, a spokeswoman with the department, said in a statement, citing added convenience for applicants.
Canada is the first major Western country to accept a Sesame report as formal documentation, a step that comes amid a broader effort by the Chinese financial sector to increase its presence in Canada.
The Sesame score is meant as a measure of financial reliability. It is separate from the social-credit system Chinese authorities are building – a far-reaching structure to track a person’s broader conduct and blacklist those considered problematic – although Ant has said it will share information on customer trustworthiness that can be used in social-credit evaluations.
The Canadian decision on Ant is a major international vote of confidence in a Chinese company’s evaluation of its users’ economic health.
Ant Financial, meanwhile, is working to expand its Alipay mobile payment service in Canada, saying it can help Chinese tourists use a familiar tool to buy goods. The company also wants to expand into cross-border money transfers, supply-chain financing and investment products in Canada, Ant Financial chief strategy officer Chen Long told The Globe and Mail last year in Hangzhou, at the Alibaba headquarters, where chief executive Jack Ma met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The use of Sesame Credit reports in visa applications is separate from Ant’s broader aims in Canada, a company representative said.
Sesame Credit issues users a score from 350 to 950. Canada won’t rely on the specific number and “no priority is given to applicants with high credit scores,” Ms. Fénelon said, although only users with high scores – more than 750 – can apply.
In the application process, a user enters personal details, including passport and cellphone numbers, then allows their picture to be taken for a facial-recognition scan. Moments later, Ant Financial e-mails a report that can be submitted to visa authorities. It includes details of a person’s spending and assets with Ant Financial. From start to finish, it takes five minutes.