Social welfare groups are considering taking legal action against a new policy that requires immigrants to live in Hong Kong for seven years before becoming eligible for welfare payments. The new rule regarding Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) is a departure from the one-year requirement and takes effect today. The Society for Community Organisation (Soco) and the Alliance Concerning CSSA, which comprises 13 organisations, are seeking advice from lawyers on a possible judicial review of the policy. Chu Kong-wai, a member of the alliance, said the group had been talking to barristers to see whether the new policy contravenes Basic Law Articles 25 and 36, which state that all Hong Kong residents are entitled to medical and social welfare benefits. Soco community organiser Sze Lai-shan said the organisation was looking at helping newcomers who arrive in Hong Kong after today and are in dire need of social security. If they do not receive a special exemption from the department, Ms Sze said the organisation would help them obtain legal aid and possibly file a lawsuit. 'The CSSA goal is to help poor people, but if you set such limitations, then it defeats its purpose,' Ms Sze said. 'It becomes a human rights issue.' The Executive Council approved the seven-year rule in June to bring it in line with the permanent residency policy, which also requires people to have lived in Hong Kong for seven years. Those aged under 18 will be exempt under the new welfare policy. The Social Welfare Department will also have discretionary powers to make exceptions in some applications for CSSA. Immigrants who have lived in Hong Kong for fewer than seven years comprised 14 per cent of the total number of CSSA recipients in October, according to department data. Ms Sze said her organisation had been helping about 50 new arrivals who had been in Hong Kong for less than a year and did not qualify for social security. One of them is Yau Yik-yung, a single mother with three daughters. Ineligible for social security, they live on $3,900 the government provides monthly.