"It has been my wish to live in China permanently," said Australian Lourenco Carlos, an eleven year resident of China, holding the new green-covered Foreign Residence Permit of China which he received Tuesday.
The Australian was among the first batch of 46 foreigners who received the long-term residence permits issued by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, granting them between three and five years of residency in China.
In the past, they had to renew their residency permits every year.
The reform measure eliminates troublesome procedures each year, and it's a sign that permanent residency will be achieved in Chinaone day, Lourenco said.
"This was the most important reform in the residency policy involving foreigners since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and it serves as a transition towards permanent residence," said Zhang Yindi, deputy director of the Exit-Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security.
The Ministry of Public Security will promote the "green card" system nationwide by the end of this year, with the move in Beijing as a prelude, Zhang said.
The term "green card" refers to the green covers of residence permits granted by countries to foreigners worldwide.
The first batch of "green card" recipients in Beijing include citizens of 12 countries, including European countries, the United States, Japan and Singapore. One of them has been living in China for nearly 20 years.
"The change shows China is continuing to open up to the outside world and to introduce more international practices. It's a demonstration of trust between the government and China-based international firms and ensures that cooperation is long-term," said Christian Murck, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, who has just received a five-year "green card."
In 2001, the Ministry of Public Security announced that it would introduce the international "green card" system to permit foreigners permanent residence and other visa privileges.
The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau publicized the requirements for long-term residence to foreigners, which include senior advisors, researchers and managers invited by the Chinese government, senior management staff and professionals of foreign-invested companies in Beijing, and foreign citizens who invested more than 3 million US dollars in the city.
For the past several thousand years, China has been stereotyped as closed and exclusionary. For a long time after the founding of New China, foreigners were given special tickets to visit tourist sites, taken to "hotels for foreigners" and even given a special currency known as foreign exchange certificate.
Along with China's opening to the outside world and economic take-off, increasing numbers of foreigners require longer residence in China, and there is increasing social awareness about allowing them permanent residence permits.
Official statistics show that as of the end of 2002, Beijing had registered 9,172 foreign-financed companies and 8,028 representative offices of foreign enterprises, with the number of foreigners living in the city permanently exceeding 50,000.
According to government officials, Beijing will soon open all its kindergartens and primary and middle schools to children of foreigners and eliminate "hotels for foreigners," allowing them to stay at the hotel or local home of their choice.
(People's Daily February 26, 2003)