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Getting a Green Card

The Ministry of Public Security announced the formal implementation of The Supervisory Laws Governing the Examination and Approval of Foreigners being Granted the Right to Permanent Residence in the PRC (thankfully abbreviated as Supervisory Laws) on August 15, 2004.

This major move on the part of the government has put the wheels into motion for giving foreigners a green card to live in the PRC.

A number of people may have been granted Chinese green cards as an honour. But this decision has actually established a system to bring convenience to foreign expats who want to become a bona fide Chinese resident.

Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Changsha and Wuhan have all begun granting Chinese green cards to foreigners.

Benefits of the Chinese green card

Recently Xiang Yang, a lawyer with the Beijing Zhongfu Law Firm, explained the benefits of Chinese green card.

Long validity

Foreigners without a Chinese green card need to renew their resident permit once a year. There are also limitations over the time duration and location they can stay within the PRC. In comparison, a Chinese green card for foreigners below 18 years of age is valid for five years and for those above 18, it is valid for 10 years. Because the Ministry of Public Security issues the card, it is valid throughout China.

Easy entry and exit

With a passport and Chinese green card one can go in and out of China freely. So a green card saves the time and expenses needed to get a visa and work on the passport each time you travel through customs. A Chinese green card can also be used separately as a legal certificate to stay in Beijing.


Foreign expats without resident permits and who come to study in schools are not allowed by law to work in China without approval. But there is no regulation limiting foreigners with Chinese green cards about employment. That means foreign expats with a Chinese green card should be allowed to work and treated according to all Chinese labour laws.


Foreign expats with a Chinese green card have the same rights in civil and commercial affairs as Chinese citizens. They can rent or lease houses without examination or approval from the public security bureau.

The following are some examples of the advantages of a working and residing licence in Beijing:

Children's education

Expats with a Chinese green card have the same rights and responsibilities (apart from the right to elect, be elected and serve military service) as Chinese citizens of the city they live in. So, if in Beijing, their children can go to kindergarten, primary and high schools without extra fees

Buying a home

With a green card, one can buy commercial housing or even economic-class houses in the city they reside in, if they meet the requirement.

Driver's licence

With a green card, one can apply for a driving licence, a temporary driving licence, or automobile registration.

Opening an enterprise

They can establish an enterprise in the city they live in, and apply for scientific and technological project sustentation.

Professional status

They can join the city's talent cultivation projects and apply for awards given to talents and experts. They can also take part in professional qualification tests and registration.


They are valid for basic retirement insurance, city workers' basic medical insurance and can store money for housing in an accumulation fund.


Foreign expats with a Chinese green card and without Chinese nationality enjoy the same advantages as other foreigners in China.

What you need to know

Organizations responsible for the acceptance of applications are usually public security bureaus of cities, townships or municipalities and are directly under the Central Government.

A Chinese green card is not equivalent to Chinese nationality. Presently China does not recognize dual or multiple nationalities. So if one wants to become a Chinese national, he would need to cancel his original nationality status.

For many, requirement for a Chinese green card is not easy to meet. Apart from spouses of Chinese people, their minors and elderly family members, there is a rather high threshold for investors, highly skilled individuals and special individuals who made major contributions to the development of the PRC.

Those who obtain a Chinese green card should not stay in China less than three months in a year or less than a year in five years. Special causes will need approval from city level public security bureaus.

Foreign expats with a Chinese green card will still need to observe rules concerning travelling, temporary living in other cities, and visiting areas closed to the public.

For further information or for a free copy of the "Chinese Green Card Guide," call Xiang Yang at the Beijing Zhongfu Law Firm at 6329-3541.

Location: Beijing Commercial Guild Hall, Bldg 1 Yulinli, and You'anmenwai 1

(China Daily May 13, 2005)


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