China rolling out initiatives to make it easier for foreigners to get green cards for residency

Office workers in a commercial complex in Beijing on Nov 4, 2015.
Office workers in a commercial complex in Beijing on Nov 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Seeking more foreign talent, China is rolling out new initiatives from March 1 that will make it easier for foreigners, especially ethnic Chinese, to obtain the elusive green card that will do away with work visas and provide access to public services.

Ethnic Chinese possessing a doctorate degree or having worked four years in Zhongguancun high-tech park, dubbed China's "Silicon Valley", and stay over six months in a calendar year, can apply for the green card, which is akin to permanent residency.

A pilot scheme implemented in Shanghai last July - allowing foreigners earning 600,000 yuan (S$131, 150) annually and paying 120,000 yuan of taxes for four consecutive years to get permanent residency - will also be expanded to Beijing.

The Public Security Ministry, which posted the initiatives on its website on Tuesday (Jan 12), said they are aimed at attracting more foreign talent and innovative entrepreneurs to the capital.

Chinese permanent residency is one of the hardest to get in the world, with only 248 green cards issued yearly on average since 2004.

Given the difficulty, there was immense interest among overseas Chinese and foreigners late last November when a senior official in charge of Zhongguancun proposed to introduce an "overseas Chinese card" that would allow the cardholders to enjoy permanent residency status.

Also, cardholders reportedly would be treated like Chinese citizens in areas such as investment, property purchase and education.

But the lack of details from Zhongguancun - which is located in Beijing's north-western Haidian district and covers an area of about 100 sq km - soon led to uncertainty over whether the schemes would be approved.

The Zhongguancun committee, in response to media queries, had said on Dec 14 that the policy was still awaiting approval from the State Council, the Foreign Ministry and Public Security Ministry.