The process for a foreigner to obtain permanent residence in China is quite a complex one. Since 2016, China has moved to gradually loosen their stringent barriers for foreigners to obtain permanent residency, in an effort to attract more talent to the country. However, even with more relaxed regulations, a low number of permanent residence permits are granted each year. This article explores how to get permanent residence in China, as well as who is eligible to apply for it.
Permanent residency in China
Obtaining permanent residence in China is usually quite a lengthy process. Once obtained, such person will be able to live and work in China without any limit on their stay, and will be entitled to certain social benefits.
In February of 2020, the Chinese Ministry of Justice issued draft rules relating to foreigners obtaining permanent residence in China. The draft, Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on the Administration of Permanent Residence of Foreigners (hereafter referred to as “the regulation”), was released to gather public comment.
The new regulations have been implemented to replace the Measures for the Administration of Examination and Approval of Aliens’ Permanent Residence in China (2004).
Who qualifies for Chinese permanent residence
The latest draft of the act provides a new, broader threshold for candidates to qualify for permanent residence in China based on education, talents, contributions, income and experience.
According to Article 11 of the regulation, you are eligible to apply for permanent residence in China if you:
- Have made significant contributions to China’s science and technology, education, health, culture or any other field of importance;
- Live in China and have made contributions to China’s development of public welfare;
- Have outstandingly contributed to promoting cooperation and friendly exchanges with China and foreign countries; and
- Have contributed significantly to China’s economic and social development.
Urgently required talents
This article was implemented with the intention of replacing the regulations of ‘high level management and personnel’, contained in the 2004 regulations. In terms of Article 13, a foreigner can apply for permanent residency in China if they fall under one of the following circumstances:
- They possess an urgently-required talent in a national key development industry;
- Academics or researchers who hold a position of assistant professor or higher and who have been recommended by another well-established institution;
- Senior professionals, senior management personnel or technical personnel that have been recommended by well-known local high technology or innovative enterprises; and
- Professional foreigners recommended by other foreigners who have previously obtained permanent residence, in accordance with Article 12 of the regulations.
High level education, expertise and Income
Under Article 15 of the regulations, foreign citizens may apply for permanent residence if they live in China and maintain good tax and credit record, and they meet one of the following requirements:
- Possess a PHD from a renowned university and have 3 years working experience thereafter (actual residence cannot be less than 1 year);
- Working in a key industry or region of the country for at least 3 consecutive years and their annual salary is no less than 4 times the previous year’s average salary of urban employees in that region;
- Working in China for at least 4 consecutive years and the annual salary is no less than 6 times the previous year’s average salary of urban employees in that region (actual residence cannot be less than 2 years);
- Working in China for at least 8 consecutive years and the annual salary is no less than 3 times the previous year’s average salary of urban employees in that region (actual residence cannot be less than 4 years);
The annual salary income mentioned above is the minimum national standard. The specific standards are determined by local government of the province or municipality of that region.
In accordance with Article 16, a foreigner is eligible to apply for permanent residency in China if they have made investments in accordance with the domestic foreign investment law. This applies to an individual in his or her own capacity as well as to a controlling shareholder of an investment company. Provided they have made investments for 3 consecutive years and they have maintained good tax and credit records, such persons are eligible to apply to become permanent residents in China, if they meet any of the following requirements:
- They have invested a capital amount of at least RMB 10 million in China;
- They have made considerable investments in regions prescribed by the government and the investment amount, tax payments and number of Chinese citizens employed meets the required standard; or
- They have established a high tech or innovative enterprise that has noticeable benefits and it has been recommended by provincial and municipal governments.
Under the draft provision has also been made for:
- A foreign citizen’s spouse, children or elderly relatives. They are able to apply for permanent residency at the same time as the primary applicant; and
- Foreign citizens who have made internationally recognized achievements across various fields such science and technology, sports, culture and healthcare.
The draft of this regulation was published on the 27th of February 2020 in order to gather public opinion. Businesses and individuals were able to submit their opinion on the draft until the 27th of March 2020. After reviewing the public’s opinion, the Ministry of Justice may make adjustments to the bill or put the regulations, as they currently stand, into effect.
If the bill passes, the relaxation of China’s regulations opens the possibility for more foreign citizens to obtain permanent residence permits in China, however, the process to obtain one will remain a long and arduous one.
 Ministry of Justice of the People’s Republic of China, Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on the Administration of Permanent Residence of Foreigners, http://www.moj.gov.cn/news/content/2020-02/27/zlk_3242559.html. (April 30th 2020)