THE process for obtaining a People's Republic of China passport has become simpler for those with foreign currency savings accounts of at least US$4,000 (HK$31,000). The new regulation says residents planning trips abroad could now apply for passports with a certificate proving they had at least US$4,000 in the bank, and would no longer have to submit a letter of invitation, proof of a host and financial guarantees from friends or relatives abroad confirming that they would be able to help the traveller in case of money difficulties. The letter of invitation from a host in the designated country of stay has long been considered a stumbling block for prospective travellers from the mainland. Once proof of the savings account is presented, the individual can qualify for a passport valid for five years. However, the Exit-Entry Management Bureau says the new rule does not automatically nullify previous procedures and reserves the right to request a letter of invitation and proof of a host's address and identity if deemed necessary. While the foreign currency savings account may simplify matters, none of the other regulations regarding the intricate process for obtaining passports has been altered. Foreign exchange savings accounts from any authorised bank are accepted by the bureau. For the time being, though, only savings account held in US dollars are acceptable.