China is granting some foreigners permanent residence in the country with a "green card," a credit card-sized photo ID that was revealed to the public at a press conference Friday.
Holding the sample card in hand, Hao Chiyong, a spokesman for Ministry of Public Security said China's first Regulations on Examination and Approval of Permanent Residence of Aliens has been approved by the State Council and is effective as of August 15.
Christian Murck with the American Chamber of Commerce in China said the regulations show that "China is continuing to open itself to the outside world and to introduce more international practices."
"Good idea. It's long overdue," said an excited Gregg Whycherley, a New Zealander working with China Central Television.
He said he and many of his foreign colleagues have been long expecting the news.
Obtaining a green card means that aliens with permanent resident status in China do not need to obtain visas and can enter and leave the country with their valid passport and Alien Permanent Residence Permits.
Cui Zhikun, director of the exit-entry administration of the Ministry of Public Security, said after their permanent residence applications are approved, foreigners face no restrictions in choosing their jobs and living areas.
Since it began reform and opening-up more than two decades ago, China has continued to make it easier for foreigners to enter and leave China and maintain a long-term residence in the country.
Since the implementation of a law on control of the entry and exit of aliens in 1985, China has approved permanent residence for more than 3,000 foreigners, noted Hao.
According to the regulations, foreign people who meet the following conditions may apply for the permanent resident status in China: high-level foreign personnel who hold posts in major businesses in the country or make large amount of direct investment, foreigners with eminent contributions or of special importance to China, and who come to China to be with their families.
Nevertheless, some argued that the criteria set for the application are a bit too high, and the number of eligible foreign nationals won't be very big.
"China is not a migrants country. The regulations mainly aim at attracting high-level personnel, capital and advanced technology to serve its reform and opening-up. The number of people that will win the approval won't be very big," said Cui with the Public Security Ministry.
Cui acknowledged that Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong will likely see a boom in applications.
China also issues short-term and long-term residence permits to foreigners to China, with the short term permit valid for one year, and the long-term permit valid for one to five years. Currently, there are 230,000 foreigners living in the country with long-term residence permits.