For Xu Man, 22, a senior in international business at Peking University, studying at a graduate school abroad doesn’t simply mean gaining a foreign diploma.
One of the other perks it could possibly bring include a Beijing hukou, or permanent residency permit entitling her to many privileges in the capital.
However, when she received the offer from Columbia University in New York earlier this year, she felt unsure about still getting the hukou in two years.
“As Beijing is restricting the hukou for returned overseas students, I wondered if it will be even harder to obtain after I complete my studies,” said Xu.
She’s just not the only student with such concerns. As the household registration policy tightened, local government also tightened rules.
Statistics released by Beijing Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, shows that the quota of Beijing hukou for graduates from other places has been reduced to 6,000 last year, a two thirds cut from the year before.
Starting from 2005, post-graduate students returning from studying overseas could become Beijingers with a certified diploma and a contract with a Beijng-based company.
After 2009, students had to ensure that their stay abroad was at least 360 days. The rules said that companies recruiting the students should have at least 500,000 yuan registered capital, and a collective hukou quota with a preference for high technology jobs.
Shanghai adopted similar but less strict hukou measures for overseas returnees.
For instance, those with bachelor degrees can apply.
Some students have to adjust their overseas study plans according to the new rules.
Chen Xiao, 23, studied English literature at Westminster University in the UK last December. She had to adjust her schedule of coming back.
“When I consulted officials in the Overseas Student Service in China last month, they told me that I should stay 360 days overseas,” she said. “They will check my entry and exit dates and one day less than the required days can deny me the right to apply for a hukou in Shanghai.”
The new rules also have influenced some students’ choice of careers and majors.
Chen Huanhuan, 20, is a junior majoring in clothing design at Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology. “I wished to study fashion in Paris or Milan, and then come back to the capital to launch my own studio, becoming an independent designer,” Chen said.
“But this policy means that if I want to get a local residence permit I have to be employed. Besides, high technology companies seldom desire a fashion graduate.”
The tightening hukou policies may have created headaches for current and future returned overseas students. Experts say that, it means that students have to check the criteria list fully and take more factors into consideration before they go abroad.
“Hukou policies could only get stricter year after year. Make sure you meet the updated requirements,” explained An Yuxiang, deputy director of the Overseas Student Service at the Ministry of Education.
“And it’s always better to study a major which can better help you launch job in a company with the collective hukou quota.”
He suggested returnee students should not flock to the big cities. Second-tier cities provide a much better platform and preferential hukou policy to attract students.
In Nanning, Guangxi, returnees can enjoy tax cuts if they start their own business.