Getting a Chinese “Green Card” Just Got a Whole Lot Easier (for Some)

China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) recently announced an increase to the number of business sectors which allow foreign nationals to apply for permanent residency. This change appears to be an active attempt by the Chinese government to fill the need for more experienced foreign experts, particularly in the rapidly growing tech field.

Newly added business sectors include engineering research centers, foreign-funded R&D centers, technology centers of nationally accredited tech companies, and state-run laboratories. Qualified applicants must have (1) the title of Associate Professor or above, and (2) been working in China for at least four years.


It seems that much of the motivation for expanding the pool of qualifying professionals has been due to the continued lack of candidates who choose to work long term in China since its “green card” (permanent residency) system was implemented in 2004. The MPS commented, “Such measures will play an essential role in attracting more high-level foreigners, including many overseas Chinese.”

With residency, foreigners have many of the same rights as Chinese citizens—the ability to invest in businesses, purchase property, and send their children to Chinese schools. And with residency, there would no longer exist the need to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops that make up the yearly work and residence permit renewal process.

On the flip side, residing long term in any of China’s large cities also earns one the privilege of breathing in polluted air most of the year and the joy of dealing with above average levels of noise. It is definitely the exception, not the rule, to live someplace where there isn’t a major and ongoing construction project practically next door to where you live.

According to the Center for China and Globalization, only 6,000 foreigners have obtained permanent residency within the last 10 years. Among these are a small number who have invested heavily in China or have otherwise made “outstanding contributions” to the country.

As for the total of number of foreigners in China, People’s Daily states there are 685,775 immigrants in China, based on the 2010 census conducted. This is 35% more than in 2000. Based on this, People’s Daily concludes that the country is becoming more desirable as an expat home. Others might disagree.

Reported figures come in at around 633,000 for foreigners in China based on a 2012 census (up from 525,000 in 2010). Just Google “foreigners leaving China” and you’ll notice an overwhelming number of articles on this apparent trend—many go so far as describe it as a near exodus of foreigners out of the Middle Kingdom. In truth, there probably have been fewer foreign nationals coming to and remaining in China, especially in the last 2–3 years, but to term it “an exodus” is probably quite a stretch.

China’s continued battle for Internet sovereignty (heavy-handed censorship) coupled with often slow or instable internet connections probably has a lot to do with people’s decisions to move elsewhere. The European Chamber of Commerce in China reports that a significant percentage of businesses report marked loss in productivity, especially in regard to conducting research online and exchanging data.

So, with that in mind, along with what many consider a campaign to drive out competing foreign technology, it would seem that China is sending mixed signals with this slightly “relaxed” policy on permanent residence.

H/T: Beijing Review

  • Emme

    Chinese ate dogs and cats. who wana live here?

    • Peter Zhang

      Believe me, the majority of people in China do not eat dogs and cats. I’ve asked a TON of people about this over the years. This practice is still found in certain regions around the country but, thankfully, is dying off.

      • big in japan

        While I tend to agree with what you’re saying (as it jibes a lot with my experiences over there as well), it’s a hard message to get across with stuff like this popping up somewhat regularly in the news cycle:

    • Darwin

      Truthfully, Koreans eating dog meat dates back further than anywhere else. Kimichi will help just about anything go down smoothly.

  • Peter Zhang

    I don’t need convincing that this horrific tradition goes on here. As I said, the practice unfortunately still exists in some areas of China… Let’s hope that these recent news headlines bring even more global awareness to the problem.