Chinese citizens residing on the mainland will be able to apply for passports and travel permits at every exit and entry management department across the country as of Monday, the National Immigration Administration said on Tuesday.
The travel permits refer to travel authorization to and from Hong Kong and Macao, as well as permits to visit Taiwan for individuals and tour groups, it said.
The administration said that exit and entry management departments nationwide issued 97.21 million passports and travel permits for individuals and tour groups last year, an increase of 12.6 percent compared with 2017.
"The new measures, aimed at offering convenience to the public, represent major administrative reforms," Yin Chengji, deputy director of the administration, said at a news conference.
After the measures are in place, Chinese living on the mainland will be able to take the same documents and apply for passports and travel permits in their nearby exit and entry management departments rather than returning to the places that issued their hukou, or household registration, it said. Before this, they could only handle such paperwork in their hometowns using identification cards, application forms and hukou.
A growing number of people have been living, studying and working in provinces and regions far from their hometowns, and there has been a strong demand for people to apply for passports or travel permits near their workplaces, said Min Haiyun, a senior administration official.
This year, an estimated 21 million people will apply for passports and travel permits nationwide, the administration said.
Those who apply for the documents away from their hometowns are expected to save more than 20 billion yuan ($2.97 billion) this year on travel expenses.
Shi Lixiang, a manager at Beijing Maitian Real Estate Agency Co, said he could get new travel permits in Beijing rather than returning to his native Hunan province.
"The new measure will bring us lots of convenience. There is no need to ask for leave, and I can remain fully devoted to my work and communicate with more clients, which will help companies save on operational costs and improve their competitiveness," Shi said.
On Monday, the administration will launch an app and an e-government website to better meet the public's new expectations for handling travel documents, said Chen Yongli, a senior official at the administration's information and technology department.
Through the new site, people can make appointments at nearby exit and entry management departments, see how the processing of their travel documents is progressing, and find addresses and contact numbers for all departments
They can also access their entry and exit records over the past 10 years.
"We protect the public's private data, and if online users want to check relevant information, they should register accounts with their real names, and after verification they must undergo facial recognition to gain access," Chen added.