Relaxing green card rules

Updated: 2014-06-06 07:52

(China Daily)

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The central authorities revealed on Monday that China is deliberating changes to its "green card" policy and considering more flexible and pragmatic rules to lower the application and approval thresholds, a move aimed at attracting more foreign talent.

The country launched its green card system in 2004 to provide permanent residency for elite foreign talent, including those who have made large investments or outstanding contributions to the country. But by 2011, only some 4,700 foreigners had managed to obtain Chinese green cards, a small number compared to the 600,000 expats living in China.

By lowering the green card application and approval threshold, China is taking the first step toward retaining foreign talent, said a commentary in China Youth Daily on Wednesday.

The current green card system has tight rules that can discourage the inflow of foreign talent. For instance, if a foreigner intends to build a plant, to qualify as an applicant for a Chinese green card, he or she must make a direct investment of more than $2 million, unless the investment is in the central or western parts of the country, when the minimum amount may be reduced by up to half. Such investments must be materialized under the name of the foreign investor instead of any entity in which he or she has a stake.

Under the green card system, permanent residency can also be granted to those expats that make remarkable contributions to China. But as of May 23 this year, only 1,306 foreigners and their family members had gained permanent residency in this way.

The long list of requirements, such as holding a post equivalent to deputy general manager or above, or having a professional title of associate professor, associate research fellow or above, have closed the door on many expats because it is impossible for them to gain these professional titles since they are in principle excluded from the grading system. As a result, many scientific and research institutes have failed to retain the foreign talent they need.

China as a rapidly emerging power is fully capable of establishing itself as home to more foreign talent. To this end, the authorities must remain open-minded and pragmatic when revising the country's green card policy.

A relaxed application and approval threshold and the formulation of more supporting regulations will contribute to the development of an immigration system that is in the best interests of China.