Permanent residents’ permits, or green cards, have been notoriously difficult to obtain in China, and many people believe they are of little use.
They claim that apart from being long-term visas, green cards are only useful for opening bank accounts or buying train tickets.
But now the Chinese authorities are introducing new policies to increase the practical use of green cards, with the goal of attracting top talent to the country.
On Feb 18, the central government issued a document on managing foreigners’ permanent residency.
Gao Xiang, a spokesman for the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, said, “The document aims to provide nondiscriminatory treatment for green card holders. It is international practice to give permanent residents the same entitlements as local citizens.
“We already had regulations covering permanent residency, but the terms relating to treatment of foreigners were not carried out thoroughly.
“With an increasing level of openness and higher frequency of personnel exchanges, we had to introduce a more practical system to cover foreigners’ rights and obligations,” he said.
China began to grant permanent residency to foreigners in 2004. In 2012, 25 ministries and central government departments jointly introduced a provision on the treatment of green card holders, but the terms were not fully implemented.
Gao said: “In the United States, the founders of many great innovative companies are not US natives－the government created a talent system to bring them in. What we should do now is also to build a well-established system to attract top talent from across the globe.”
The newly published document includes a guideline for foreigners holding permanent residents’ permits to be given equal treatment as Chinese citizens, such as on buying homes, school enrollment and in social security coverage.
Eugene Gregoryanz, a physicist from the University of Edinburgh who now works at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Hefei Institutes of Physical Science under the 1,000 Talent Plan, said, “I think that if foreigners are allowed to buy property or exchange renminbi at banks like Chinese citizens, this would be very attractive and rather useful.”
The 1,000 Talent Plan, also known as the Recruitment Program for Global Experts, is a global talent program initiated by the Chinese government to attract foreign scientists or innovators.
The program has recruited 313 foreign experts since it was launched in 2011.
It offers a subsidy of 1 million yuan ($153,400) for each recruit along with research funds, a salary and other benefits.
Recruits must work in China for at least three years and remain in the country for at least nine months a year.
Gregoryanz said, “For many people I know, exchanging money is a big problem. We are paid extremely well but cannot exchange (large amounts of) renminbi to dollars or sterling at banks. We have to make do with the airport, where the exchange rates are not so good, or ask Chinese friends to do it for us.