Shanghai mayor unveils 7-year path to city residency permit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 February, 2009, 12:00am

People who satisfy certain requirements will gain permanent residency in Shanghai after living there for seven years, mayor Han Zheng said yesterday.

'In the past, the hukou system has been managed according to a set of quotas. We have now changed, turning the quota system into a system of requirements,' Mr Han said. 'Those meeting a set of requirements will be able to convert a resident's permit into a permanent residency. The requirement is seven years.'

Mr Han said there had been some discussion over whether applicants would need to have been continuously resident in the city for seven years before applying for residency, but after 'listening to everyone's opinions' the city's government had decided to allow residency periods to accumulate.

Mr Han's comments - made during a two-hour webcast - confirm recent statements made by his deputy, Hu Yanzhao, who floated the seven-year figure as a possible timeframe for eligibility when speaking at a human resources conference on Tuesday.

Length of residency will not be the only requirement. Mr Han said yesterday that applicants would need 'a certain level of professional knowledge' and to have been an active, law-abiding member of society throughout their time in the city. He said he hoped details of the new system would be published on the city government's website tomorrow.

The move would be a considerable relaxation of the hukou system, under which residents' access to public services are linked to their place of birth.

More than 13 million of Shanghai's population hold a valid hukou permit for the city, but Mr Han said there were at least 6 million more long-term residents who had not yet qualified for one.

'This part [of the population] coming from all over the country, have made an important contribution to Shanghai's economic development,' he said.

The mayor was responding to a question from Chen Jie, one of 12 netizens picked to participate in yesterday's webcast, hosted by the official news portal as part of a drive towards more open and accessible government in the city.

Ms Chen, a five-year resident of the city, is one of the potential beneficiaries of the new rules. Not having a Shanghai hukou meant she has had to return to her hometown to apply for a variety of important documents - from a passport to marriage registration to permission to have a child.

'You need to be resident in Shanghai for more than 15 years and married to a permanent Shanghai resident before you can apply for a hukou,' she said. 'If this policy comes about, that would be shortened by eight years in a stroke.'

Problems faced by the city's immigrant population featured prominently in the webcast.

Mr Han pledged to do more to support the education of the city's 380,000 children of migrant workers, including looking into allowing them to attend government-run high schools. At present migrant workers' children are only offered education up to middle school.

'We need to be especially concerned about the children of migrant workers who have followed their parents from rural villages into the city,' he said. 'They should receive education just like city children.'