'Green card' process may get easier

Updated: 2012-11-19 02:47

By ZHAO YINAN (China Daily)

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Draft gives expats path to permanent residency in China

Foreigners who live in China for 10 consecutive years may be eligible for a "green card", according to a proposed draft regulation.

The draft, among other amendments to ease requirements for permanent residency, is being considered by the Ministry of Public Security.

Liu Guofu, an immigration law expert at the Beijing Institute of Technology, revealed that the ministry proposed lowering the threshold for applicants at a symposium in August, and is gauging feedback from experts.

Liu said the draft mostly targets immigrants in the field of technology who will be able to apply for permanent residency after living in China for 10 consecutive years, provided they have spent at least nine months each year in the country. They must be employed, have accommodation and a good tax record. The success of their application will no longer be dependent on the position they hold.

Current regulations require applicants, in the technological sector, to hold a position of deputy general manager or associate professor (or higher) for at least four successive years.

If the draft is approved, more foreigners will be eligible to apply for a green card.

Qu Yunhai, a senior official at the Ministry of Public Security, said in October that his department is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to draft a document that could result in more permanent residency permits being issued, China News Service reported.

The Ministry of Public Security confirmed that the draft document is being prepared but did not provide further information due to the sensitivity of the issue.

China started to grant permanent residency permits to foreigners in 2004. Since then more than 4,700 foreigners have received permits.

Beijing police said that out of about 850 foreigners who had applied for the permits, more than 780 applications had been approved by mid-October.

China approved about 248 applications in the technological sector annually from 2004 to 2011, a rather low rate for a country eager for expertise, Liu said.

The stringent requirements are part of the reason for the low numbers, Liu said.

"The current method of evaluating a foreigner's contribution to China by the rank of his post is one-sided and also deters overseas expertise from coming," he said.

Other than assessing the rank of applicants, he suggested the government classify foreigners by sectors and list the most required skills needed for potential immigrants.

As for investment immigration, where applicants set up a commercial enterprise, Liu said the draft also proposes reducing the investment criteria.

China's first legislation covering the exit and entry of Chinese citizens and foreigners, the Law on the Exit and Entry Administration, was passed in June and will take effect in July 2013. It allows for an increase in the number of green cards.

Wang Huiyao, deputy director of China Talent Research, an institute affiliated to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said the government is also planning to broaden the use of green cards.

He said the human resources authority will soon release a document that allows green card holders to enjoy equal rights as Chinese citizens, except for the right to elect and be elected.

He said the document was signed this month and will be introduced possibly as early as December.

Under the new document, green card holders will be able to use the card as a travel certificate, such as checking in at hotels, he said.

"Most importantly, it's expected to eventually build a personal network by associating the user's bank account, insurance account and medical care account with the permit. That makes life easier for foreigners," he said.

Emilie Bourgois, a public relations manager in Beijing, has been studying and working in the country for more than four years.

She said it is sensible to require a minimum of 10 years, since China is among the "hottest destinations" in the world.

Green cards provide foreigners with a sense of security, especially for those married with children.

"Green card applicants usually have devoted a big chunk of their life to China and deserve the convenience of permanent residency," she said.

 Contact the writer at zhaoyinan@chinadaily.com.cn