Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, January 07, 2004

China pondering its own 'green card' system

With China-world economic ties becoming increasingly close, more foreigners are likely to pour in. Then should China institute a "green card" system? This means issuing permanent residence permits to foreigners who hope to live in China permanently? A recent interview by our reporter with entry/exit control departments reveals that the nation will introduce a "green card" system of its own in 2004.


Canadian kindergarten teacher in Fuzhou
With more and more foreign faces showing up on Chinese streets, people are no longer curious about foreigners. Statistics show that by now the number of registered foreigners working in the hinterland of China has exceeded 60,000, most of them are concentrated in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen; while the number of foreigners traveling to China amounts to 70-90 million persons/times annually. With China-world economic ties becoming increasingly close, more foreigners are likely to pour in. Then should China institute a "green card" system? This means issuing permanent residence permits to foreigners who hope to live in China permanently? A recent interview by our reporter with entry/exit control departments reveals that the nation will introduce a "green card" system of its own in 2004.

Two kinds of residence permits for foreigners, the longest duration being five years
The words "lu ka" (are translated from the English terms "green card"). It represents permanent residence in America. Despite its name, it is now actually white in color, checkered with red and blue. Immigrant visa is closely linked with "green card", acquisition of the former makes it possible to get the latter. The green card system is generally practiced in immigration countries or countries that need foreign labor forces.

For different countries, green cards are highly flexible in terms of time limit. They are permanent in some traditional immigration countries such as America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. That is, cardholders are entitled to reside in these countries from their obtaining the cards until their death. Green cards of this kind are mainly granted to three groups: skilled workers, investors and those seeking for family reunion.

However, in traditional countries like Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark that bring in talented people, a long-term residence system with time limit is instituted for immigrant workers and professionals. Germany's "green card" only allows living and working in the country for three years, but the period can be extended for another two years upon its expiration. That is to say, German green card holders must return to where he or she comes from at most in five years, so the "gold content" of this card, so to speak, is much less than that of the American one. The green card system, for either permanent or long-term residence, is highly significant for foreigners.

Foreigners' life in Shanghai (2)
In China, foreigners residing in the country for over six months but under one year, a "temporary residence permit" is given by public security departments, and those living over one year are given a "foreigner residence permit" generally with a time limit of one year, which can be extended after their certificates are checked and accepted by designated public security institutions. In addition, foreigners working at posts as deputy-manager or above in foreign-funded enterprises and students returned from overseas can apply for a 1-5 year foreigner residence permit, but only a few of them really get the five-year permit.

Less than 50 permanent residence permits, more like honorary certificates, are issued nationwide
Does China have permanent residence permits for foreigners? According to the "Law of the People's Republic of China on the Administration of the Exit and Entry of Foreigners", foreigners who need long-term residence in China because they invest in the country, or conduct economic, sci-tech, and cultural cooperation with Chinese enterprises or institutions or engage in other activities, can be granted long-term or permanent qualifications with approval from competent government departments. However, according to the detailed rules on the implementation of the law, foreigners meeting with the above-mentioned requirements can generally be given at most five-year residence permits. China does have permanent residence permits for foreigners, but since permanent residence permits are rarely granted, it is better call them honorary documents than certificates. Statistics show no more than 50 such permits were granted to foreigners nationwide by 2001.

China doesn't have genuine green card at the moment
Even these permanent residence permits cannot be counted as China's "green cards", a public security official said. They can only be regarded as local green cards because a green card is directly linked with immigration, therefore it implies the cardholder possesses some rights not to be held by short-term residents.

In America, green card holders enjoy almost the same rights with American citizens. On top of the rights of voting and standing for election, permanent residents enjoy political and economic rights to employment, medicine, insurance, relief and education as American nationals do. And they must undertake duties as must the Americans, such as paying tax. Of course, if a green card holder breaks American laws, one of the direct results is the revocation of his or her card.

Foreigners Learn Peking Opera
Though foreigners, during their stay in China, enjoy such basic rights as right of the person, right of property and rights of employment and education, they don't enjoy some political rights exclusively for Chinese citizens such as the right to vote and the right to stand for election, nor do they hold public office. According to previous regulations, foreigners were subjected to some restrictions in the aspects of travel, accommodation, house purchasing and medicine. They must act according to stipulations within the designated scope.

However, recently China has gradually relaxed policies toward foreigners, so they are now enjoying more and more freedom in China. First of all, China has abolished stipulations restricting accommodations for foreigners, now they are free to choose accommodation anywhere without being restricted to hotels for foreigners. They enjoy the same medical insurance with the Chinese citizens and commercial houses previously set exclusively for Beijing purchasers are now open to foreign buyers.

Absence of real green card system causes problems
Due to the lack of a real green card system, China's attraction to foreigners has been affected, because many of them doubt whether their rights and interests can be effectively protected after their arrival in China. To further open the employment market for foreigners, it is imperative to institute a green card system of China's own, said an entry/exit official.

Presently China faces a very good opportunity for development, and has had a growing need for foreign talents since its WTO accession. But for reasons of policy and law, some outstanding foreigners do find it impossible to come to work in China smoothly. International competition for talents is unavoidable in the times of economic globalization, and Chinese enterprises, in order to choose the best and most capable personnel, urgently require that the government establish a more relaxed system for the administration of foreigners. A green card system would no doubt meet the trend.

The establishment of a green card system would also play a very important role in maintaining foreign-related social order. Currently, illegal residence and employment of foreigners and visas expired still being used are found in Chinese cities. For example, some language schools employ foreigners without residence permits for long-term teaching in China. Many restaurants hire foreign students as waiters with fairly high pay to attract customers, regardless to regulations forbidding employment of foreign students.

The lack of a sound green card system is an important cause of illegal residence, the official said. Therefore, establishing and improving a green card system will be crucial for creating a purified social order, maintaining the working environment for legal foreign residents and protecting the rights and interests of legal investors.

Time mature for setting up green card system
Since the reform and opening up two decades ago, the Chinese government has made many adjustments to its administration over entry and residence of foreigners. The issue was proposed at a CPPCC meeting as early as February 2000. Statistics of 2001 showed that the number of registered foreign employees in China had exceeded 60,000. The figure is rising and the time is ripe for setting up China's own green card system.

Both Beijing and Shanghai are actively exploring ways based on existing laws and have worked out more preferential policies toward local foreign residents. In Beijing, foreigners investing over US$3 million can apply for five-year residence. In Shanghai, foreigners working in foreign-funded enterprises with a registered capital over US$30 million can directly get residence over one year. These policies have paved the way for the establishment of a green card system.

(Article from Global Times, page 15, December 31, abridged translation by PD Online staff member Li Heng.)

Questions?Comments? Click here

More Foreigners to Get Permanent Residence Permits in China

Foreigners Receive Long-term Chinese Residence Permits

China to grant permanent residence permits to foreigners


Exploration rover "Spirit" lands safely on Mars ( 9 Messages)

Two major state banks to pilot joint-stock system ( 3 Messages)

China pondering its own "green card" system ( 16 Messages)

Roaring BMW: Was it "road rage" or an accident? ( 2 Messages)

Beijing's traffic no longer a headache by year 2008 ( 5 Messages)

Copyright by People's Daily Online, all rights reserved