The central government is mulling lowering the threshold for foreigners wanting to obtain a Chinese permanent resident card, a Ministry of Public Security official was quoted by the news portal chinanews.com as saying Tuesday.
"The Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working on easing restrictions on permanent residency. Some major changes will be seen after the new regulation comes out," Qu Yunhai, deputy director of the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration, said over the weekend, adding that the law on entry and exit administration was revised in June this year and will take effect in July 2013.
The revised law will give foreign affairs and public security officials the authority to change the requirements for a permanent resident card.
Rules on social security contributions and access to education for overseas Chinese working in China are also expected to be amended.
Calls to the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration went unanswered on Tuesday.
According to the sixth national census released in May 2011, some 600,000 foreigners live in China. The ministry said that by the end of 2011, only 4,752 foreigners had been granted permanent resident status.
Liu Guofu, an expert on immigration law from the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times that the number of permanent residents in China is negligible considering more than 560,000 Chinese emigrate every year.
"The proportion of immigrants in the population is an indicator of how much the country has opened up," said Liu. "For international metropolis such as London and Paris, foreign residents account for almost 10 percent, in contrast to less than 1 percent in Beijing and Shanghai."
"China does not have the resources to accommodate an influx of immigrants," said Hu Weilue, a researcher from the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Current regulations governing permanent residency, enacted in 2004, stipulate that foreigners can be granted the status if they are married to Chinese citizens, or make outstanding contributions to either the economy or technology. They must also work in China for at least four years and have a good tax record.
Liu believes easing the criteria will help China's development. "By granting permanent residency, China is offering foreigners the options to come and live in China, and that option is going to attract talents and bring changes to the country," Liu added.
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