Green card holders to get same rights as Chinese

By Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-12 1:00:05

A new regulation will allow foreigners who have obtained permanent residence in China to enjoy equal rights and shoulder the same duties as Chinese nationals, with the only exception being political rights and duties, according to a statement from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS).

Meanwhile, the Global Times learned that the authority is mulling lowering the threshold for foreigners to obtain permanent residence cards, including lowering the requirements for senior professional titles and the amount of investment in China.

The regulation, jointly drawn up by 25 ministerial-level departments, calls for permanent foreign residents to be granted national treatment in terms of employment, doing business, purchasing homes and obtaining an education for their children, Xinhua reported.

The regulation states that the children of foreigners, who possess permanent residence cards, will be able to enjoy nine-year free compulsory education in their place of residence.

Permanent foreign residents will also be able to enjoy social insurance and purchase homes using publicly accumulated housing funds, the regulation says.

Xinhua quoted an anonymous official with the MHRSS as saying that the circular will be conducive to attracting more foreign specialists to work in China.

China started to grant permanent residence cards, commonly known as green cards, for foreigners in 2004. Over 4,700 foreigners had received the cards as of the end of last year.

Gilbert Van Kerckhove, Managing Director of Beijing Global Strategy Consulting Co, who got his green card in 2008, told the Global Times Tuesday that he still finds many differences in the way local Chinese people and foreigners are treated, despite improvements over the past years.

He cited healthcare as a major concern, saying that foreigners have to pay much more for exactly the same service, and some hospitals even refuse to treat foreigners.

Van Kerckhove also said that while purchasing train tickets, the computer system wouldn't work for his green card, attributing the problem to the logistics of bureaucracy.

"I'm a little bit suspicious in how far they are going to really implement (the regulation)," he said.

Liu Guofu, a renowned immigration law expert at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times Tuesday that the number of green cards granted to foreigners is too low compared with the number of foreigners in the country, partly due to the high threshold set for obtaining permanent residence.

Against the backdrop of a national brain drain, Liu called for a relaxation of the threshold to attract more foreign talents to China amid an economic downturn in the West.

According to a proposed amendment to the application criteria obtained by the Global Times, the authority is considering allowing foreigners who have worked in China for 10 consecutive years with a good tax-paying record and stable life and residence to receive green cards.

The previous policy demanded that applicants hold positions higher than deputy general manager, deputy factory manager, associate professor and assistant researcher for more than four years at organizations such as government agencies, universities and high-tech enterprises.

It also proposed lowering the threshold of foreign applicants' investment in China to $1 million from $2 million.

Van Kerckhove, who served as an economic advisor to the Beijing municipal government, also called for a relaxation of the threshold, especially for foreigners who want to retire in China.

According to him, many foreigners who have families here want to spend the rest of their lives in China, but encountered problems in remaining in the country as they couldn't get work visas because of retirement.

"If you grant green cards to those people, it's actually good for China, because they normally have money, so they will spend in China, and bring income to the country," he said.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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