China Foreigner’s Permanent Resident Identity Card Phasing Out Old Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Card: What to Know

As part of a push to replace the former Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Card, the Ministry of Public Security began issuing a new and improved card. On the national level, the new Foreigner’s Permanent Resident Identity Card only pertain to the design and function of the new card, certain regions are adopting additional policies to improve the issuance of these cards. 

History on Permanent Residency Cards in China 

Permanent residency permits were first unveiled in China in 2004. Unfortunately for many foreign workers, this first set of permits were often difficult to acquire. Little over 7,300 of these permits were obtained, according to records from the Ministry of Public Security in the decade after their release. 

In 2015, the government has adopted new measures to make it easier for foreigners to obtain these permits. Evidence of the ease to obtain the permit under new policies appeared in the following year when 1,576 resident permits were obtained by foreigners, a 163% higher award figure compared to the number released in 2015.

Purpose of the New Identity Card 

According to government officials, the purpose of the new identity card is to make a foreigner’s life easier in China and to give them a sense of belonging in their new resident country. It also provides greater functionality. 

The change is part of larger reforms that are aiming to attract innovation and entrepreneurs in China, including creating a new national work permit categorization system for foreign workers.

Functions of the Card

The current identity card mirrors the applications of previous generations of the card. Officials have noted that many of the changes to the card are to the design of the card. Foreign workers with these cards allow the card holder to remain in China for an indefinite duration and to leave and reenter China without needing a visa. 

The new identity card contains a chip in it that retains the identity information of the card holder. 

Improvements of the New Identity Card

The new card allows foreign workers to enter and leave China without the time restrictions that are linked to a visa. Additionally, the cards serve as an acceptable form of identification. Foreign workers can use the card for financial and legal transactions and for other purposes that they could not use them before. This makes it easier for foreigners to accomplish their daily tasks in an easier fashion that was previously afforded. 

Use in Certain Provinces

Certain provinces in China have adopted additional measures related to the new identity cards that streamline eligibility criteria and the process to apply for permanent residency in China. These regions include Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong and Shanghai. 

Implementation in Shanghai

Shanghai was the first city in China to adopt new measures centered upon the new identity cards. Other cities that have adopted similar policies largely reflect the changes that Shanghai has adopted. New measures were first implemented in 2015 and have largely been successful in attracting more foreign workers to the area. There was a 600% increase in permanent resident applications from 2015 to 2016. 

The application timing was cut in half from 180 days to 90 days. 

One of the most significant changes that Shanghai implemented was to expand eligibility criteria to applicants who have certain expertise or income levels. Now, a foreigner may be eligible for permanent residence in Shanghai if he or she:

  • Is a high level foreign expert
  • Makes outstanding contributions to China
  • Has made a large direct investment of a minimum of USD $500,000 in China 
  • Is the spouse of a Chinese citizen or permanent resident who has resided in China for a successive five years and has been in a marriage of at least five years 
  • Is over the age of 60 and has relatives in China and no direct relatives in other countries and has been in China for at least five successive years
  • Is a high level foreign talent who has worked in Shanghai for at least three consecutive years and is endorsed by the Chinese government 
  • Is a foreign national who has worked for a qualified employer for at least four consecutive years in a qualified category
  • Has worked in Shanghai for a minimum of four years and has an annual income of 600,000 RMB and pays income tax over 120,000 RMB each year

Holders of the new identity card can apply directly to receive a Shanghai Overseas Talent Residence Permit. Once a foreigner obtains this permit, he or she can obtain a residential permit, establish an enterprise, be employed by administrative authorities, receive public education for children and be able to access a driver’s license in the area. 

Business Needs Related to the New Identity Card

Because the uses and benefits of the identity card are different in different regions of China, employers in Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong, Shanghai and any other regions that implement new benefits based on obtaining the card should carefully review the new rules. A professional advisor can help make the transition to the new card seamless. 

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