Opinion / Blog

My Chinese Green Card, when are you due?

By eddieturkson ( Updated: 2015-03-31 18:00

With the growing domination of China and its quest to further promote its opening-up policies, increasing numbers of foreigners are willing to stay in China permanently, to serve the country, get married and remain embedded in a culture with more than 5,000 years of history that continues to amaze the world. But not so fast! It isn’t that easy but don’t ask me why? The devil isn’t always in the detail and by detail I mean the standardized assumed requirements.

I was going through the headlines on the homepage a week ago and stumbled on a question I have been daring to explore for some time now. It was: “Is it difficult to obtain a Chinese Green Card?” There were a myriad of interesting responses. Most with valid reasons downplayed the quest to secure a Green Card. Those responses alluded to the fact that it wasn’t worth it, since the possibility of obtaining one was near impossible.

Over the years, the Chinese government has made announcements to reduce the difficulty in obtaining a Green Card and yet still they elude many foreigners who by virtue of the assumed qualifications believed they were within the perimeters. From responses given, it was evident that most respondents were not aware of all requirements, and people who know all the requirements and apply believe they deserve to be rewarded.

So who qualifies for a Green Card?

In order to qualify one must fulfill at least one of the following:

-Be a high-level foreign expert holding a post which promotes China's economic, scientific and technological development, or social progress.

-Have made outstanding contributions of special importance to China

-Have made a large direct investment of over US$ 500,000 in China

-Have come to China to be with your family, such as spouse, dependent minors or senior citizens

From the above requirements, the last one seems to be in the threshold for the majority of foreigners who apply but it isn’t as easy as stated. Using a 2011 report, 4,700 foreigners out of 600,000 people that applied that year were able to obtain a card. We are waiting for the 2014 report. 


From my discussions on various forums across China, the process of obtaining a Green Card is like a camel forcing its way through the eye of a needle, better still an elephant threading a needle.

The point here is any awareness or promotion of Green Cards from the perspective of many expats is just propaganda to reflect the country's willingness to open up. Most people have come to the conclusion that the Green Card is for a selective few, it isn't one where one can qualify based on simply meeting the requirements, but rather some "specific" qualifications. It is as if one must have celebrity status to earn one.

I also read a report which claimed reducing the threshold could be used to attract overseas Chinese back to the mainland because China is facing a deficit in the flow of high-end talents as more experts are leaving than entering.

If more experts are leaving China, there are two major reasons. The first is because they feel unwelcome after several attempts to secure a Green Card. The second is often attributed to the weather. In my opinion, the majority of foreigners wouldn’t leave because of the weather.

They say good-bye to China not because they don’t love the country, if they didn’t they wouldn’t have made attempts to secure a permanent right to stay. They leave because they feel their contribution is not recognized. In this regard, I think China should institute a nationwide award scheme that celebrates those foreigners who are contributing to the country’s economic, scientific and technological development.

If there were such an award in place, it should be well promoted so that these high-level experts become well known across China. I rarely know any of them, not a single name comes to mind.

With that said, the Green Card will remain the Holy Grail for me and most expatriates. Why? Because I’m not a high-level foreign expert, I don’t have $500,000, I’m not married to a Chinese national plus I haven’t yet, I repeat yet, made any outstanding contribution of special importance to the development of the country.

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