Many foreigners living or working in China will be relieved of having to apply for visas when leaving and entering the country, as the government will grant permanent residence permits to "qualified" foreigners.
A senior official with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) disclosed in Beijing Wednesday that regulations on granting permanent residence permits to foreigners have been mapped out and sent to the State Council for approval.
The official, who did not want to be identified, said the regulations would mainly target high-level foreign professionals and big investors badly needed for the country's development.
While refusing to reveal details, he said the regulations would ensure transparency in granting the permits.
Analysts here said the move would represent another crucial step for the country to open wider to the outside world, and attract more foreigners for its modernization drive.
With rapid economic growth, China's demand for overseas experts and specialists is also surging, and statistics indicated that more than 440,000 work in the country.
Meanwhile, there is also a growing call by foreign professionals to simplify procedures and enjoy many of the rights local people have.
The government has taken some measures to resolve the issues inline with international practices.
In February this year, 45 foreigners in Beijing, including senior advisors, researchers and managers invited by the Chinese government as well as professionals from foreign-funded companies, received the country's first batch of long-term residence permits and multi-entry visas.
These permits, allowing three or five years stay in China, need not to be renewed annually or every six months as in the past.
"The permits and visas only serve as a transition toward permanent residence permits," said Zhang Yindi, deputy-director of the Exit-Entry Administration of MPS, noting this was a great leap forward compared with past policies in this regard.
Official statistics show that the number of foreigners living in Beijing permanently had exceeded 50,000 by the end of 2002.
(Xinhua News Agency December 18, 2003)