Multiple measures will be adopted to assist elderly people applying for exit and entry documents and help them address difficulties they face in using information technology, the National Immigration Administration said on Feb 23.
The new measures, to take effect on April 1, will see immigration service centers establish a "green channel "for the elderly to apply for travel documents and set up service windows for them and other groups in need of assistance to reduce waiting times.
Seniors will be able to apply for entry and exit permits at the service centers without online reservations, and staff members will help them print application forms and fill them out.
The authorities will enhance face-to-face guidance and consultation at service centers and help the elderly use self-service equipment.
People aged 60 or above who apply for passports or travel permits to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan will be able to reuse the photographs in their entry and exit documents or resident ID cards if they were taken within the past five years.
The administration will also upgrade the government's entry and exit service platform to improve elderly people's online service experience.
The platform will allow seniors' relatives or friends to help them handle affairs. It will also feature an optimized interface with aids such as large fonts and big buttons to simplify the operation process.
Applicants will be able to have documents delivered, pay postage and search for information through the website of the administration's government affairs service platform, its mobile phone application and third-party platforms.
The problem of the "digital divide" is becoming increasingly prominent with the rapid growth of the elderly population. The Ministry of Civil Affairs said in October that China's elderly population will exceed 300 million during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25).
Many seniors are not accustomed to internet-based services or smartphones, so they often encounter difficulties in shopping, travel, medical treatment and other daily activities.
The State Council issued a notice in November requiring all localities and departments to focus on high-frequency matters and service scenarios involving the elderly and effectively solve the difficulties the elderly face in using information technology.
It required the level and convenience of IT services for the elderly to be significantly improved, with a long-term mechanism to be established by the end of 2022 to address the digital divide.
In December, 22 key government agencies held a meeting focusing on seven types of high-frequency matters and service scenarios in the daily lives of seniors, such as travel, medical services, consumption and entertainment.
Service modes that caused inconvenience to the elderly should be promptly rectified, the departments said in a statement.
One example is the health codes on smartphones that allow people to move about more freely during COVID-19 precautions. The health commission has constantly pushed forward with information integration and mutual recognition and the elderly can now register with valid identity documents or paper certificates. Areas and places where conditions permit should set up channels for elderly people who do not use smartphones.