China / Society

Residency rules get revised

By Zhang Yan and Zhao Yinan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-10-17 01:18

A draft regulation on China's permanent residency permits, which lowers requirements for applicants, is to be issued soon, a senior official with the Ministry of Public Security has said.

The Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working together to draft the document, which could result in more permanent residency permits being issued, said Qu Yunhai, deputy director of the Exit and Entry Administration Bureau under the Ministry of Public Security, during a visit to Washington on Monday.

"The new regulation will be issued in the near future, and I believe it will bring many changes (to existing rules)," Qu was quoted as saying by the China News Service on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Public Security told China Daily that the draft document is being prepared, but would not give further details due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Although no details have been provided, overseas Chinese are widely expected to benefit from the changes, experts said.

China started to issue permanent residency permits to foreigners in 2004. With Chinese "green cards", foreigners can enter or leave China without a visa and stay in the country freely.

Official figures show that by the end of last year, more than 4,700 foreigners had received the permits.

In Beijing, a total of 852 foreigners have applied for the permits so far, and 783 applications have been approved, according to figures provided to China Daily by Beijing police on Tuesday.

Under existing laws and regulations, only four kinds of foreign citizens are allowed to apply for a green card.

Qu said many foreigners, including overseas Chinese, have put forward opinions and suggestions about China's green card system, and the majority of them want to lower the application threshold and expand the issue of the permits.

He said the new Law on the Exit and Entry Administration, passed in June and which takes effect in July 2013, also clears legal hurdles for the new regulation.

The law — the first of its kind in China to collectively manage exit and entry affairs of Chinese citizens and foreigners — pledges to streamline the procedures for permanent residency permits as an incentive to attract foreign expertise.

The law allows foreigners who have "contributed significantly to China's social and economic development and others who meet the standards of a green card" to apply for a permanent residency permit.

Meanwhile, it requires the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work out detailed management measures for handling the permanent residency applications.

Wu Xinming, a professor of police affairs related to foreigners with the Chinese People's Public Security University, said China's green card policies have facilitated international personnel flows in the past years, but that the requirements are high compared with some neighboring countries.

He said that the Republic of Korea has issued about 1 million green cards and Japan has issued 1.5 million green cards for foreigners, compared with China's about 5,000 green cards.

Patrick Lynch, an English teacher from the United States who has been living in Beijing for 10 years, said he has never tried to apply for a Chinese green card, thinking that it would be very difficult to get one, as the government has just offered a few thousand cards over the years.

Wu said that with an increasing number of foreigners coming to China thanks to the rapid developing economy and society, it's inevitable that the demand for green cards will continue to increase.

"Lowering the threshold and requirements for green card applications can attract more foreigners, and I think that the overseas Chinese who have strong connections with China may benefit from the new regulation," he said.

Gao Siren, chairman of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, has suggested lowering the standards, especially for overseas Chinese returning to the country.

"Many overseas Chinese would like to return to China to work and live here, but their ideas are often dampened by the strict requirements and complicated procedures," he said in June.

Li Yuxi, vice-president of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas and a national lawmaker, has also suggested allowing more overseas Chinese, especially those older than 60 years and younger than 18, to apply for a green card to reunite with their families.

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Cao Yin contributed to this story.

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