Ministry eases passport restrictions for non-locals in six mainland cities
Migrant workers in six mainland cities will be able to apply for travel passes, even without local household registration, from next month
The Ministry of Public Security is to ease restrictions on passport and travel permit applications by non-local people working or studying in six mainland cities.
From September 1, migrant workers in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin , Chongqing , Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and students at universities, will be able to apply for passports and travel passes to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan through local police departments.
They can apply even if they do not have household registration, or hukou, in those cities, the ministry announced on its official website on Wednesday.
But their spouses or children will still have to apply back in their hometowns.
At present, mainlanders must apply for a passport in the area where their household is registered, which can make the process difficult for people who live elsewhere.
China's rapid economic and social development has made the six cities attractive places for those seeking to work or study, and they each have millions of migrants.
Applicants will be required to present their household registration certificate, identity card and temporary residence permit.
Employed people will also need a statement from the city's social security bureau to confirm they have paid social security or income tax in the city for at least a year, and students will need a statement from their university confirming their enrolment.
Exit and entry bureaus in the six cities will receive applications and then send them, through police channels, to agencies in the applicant's hometown for approval. Applicants will usually receive the passports or permits within 30 days.
The hukou system, introduced in 1958, has been criticised for decades for putting a lid on the free flow of internal migration on the mainland, especially from rural areas to cities, and condemning the rural population to second-class status.
With no local hukou, migrant workers find their access to services and social welfare limited, even though they may have worked and paid taxes in the city for years.
Zhang Zongbao , a Shaanxi native who has been working as a fitness coach in Shenzhen for three years, welcomed the reform.
"I and my wife really wanted to visit Hong Kong for our honeymoon last December, but getting a travel permit was a problem," Zhang said. "I only have five days' annual leave a year. I didn't have the time or cash to fly back to Shaanxi for the complicated application procedures. So we gave up the plan to go to Hong Kong."
Tang Yiting , marketing manager at the GZL International Travel Service, expects a boom in tourists going to Hong Kong and overseas after the introduction of the new measure.