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Foreign Permanent Residency in China

The Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card in China is a legal identity document for foreign nationals who obtain permanent residency status within China. Also known as the Green Card, this card functions as a standalone identification document, allowing its holders to navigate various administrative and daily tasks without the need for a passport. Among its conveniences, the card facilitates the process of registering for accommodation and buying transportation tickets, for instance planes. The simplification of these processes aims to enhance the living experience of foreign residents in China.


The process for attaining permanent residency in China is governed by the Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People's Republic of China and the Measures for the Administration of Examination and Approval of Foreigners' Permanent Residence in China. Starting December 1, 2023, an updated version of the Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card was introduced. This new edition, often referred to as the "five-star card," includes a few key changes, including a new design, heightened security measures, an expanded 18-digit card number, and improved online service capabilities for personal affair management. Despite the introduction of this new version, previously issued cards remain valid.


Eligibility for permanent residency is generally extended to foreign nationals who have significantly contributed to China's economic and social development or who meet other specified criteria. Applicants must comply with Chinese laws and regulations, maintain good health and a clean criminal record, and satisfy at least one of the following conditions: Key positions in businesses, possession of high-end or specialized skills, significant direct investments in China, or reasons related to family reunion.


Specific eligibility criteria include: substantial and consistent investments in China with a positive tax record over three years; key managerial or high professional positions with a good tax record and a minimum residency of three years within a four-year span; exceptional contributions to China's needs; family members of eligible applicants; spouses of Chinese citizens or permanent residents with a minimum five-year marriage and residence in China; unmarried and dependent minors; and elderly applicants with no overseas dependents and a stable life in China.


While the national guidelines set the foundation for the application process, local governments may have additional conditions or streamlined procedures based on regional economic development goals, local policies, and administrative capacities. For example, certain cities that are part of pilot zones or special economic regions may offer more favorable conditions or simplified processes to attract foreign investors, talents, and professionals.


For example, in May 2023 the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau of Shanghai Public Security Bureau made notable updates to its policies regarding permanent residency applications for working staff in Shanghai, a specific category of people who are eligible for permanent residence application in Shanghai. These updates include two major changes: firstly, the requirements for annual salary and tax payments for applicants have been raised; secondly, applicants must now provide proof of a clean criminal record both in China and their home countries. Additionally, in June 2023, Shanghai introduced revised criteria specifically for applicants holding a PhD degree. These new rules state that any foreign national with a PhD who is currently employed in Shanghai, including those from abroad without Chinese citizenship, can now apply for permanent residency. It's important to note that these changes are specific to Shanghai and do not apply to other areas such as Beijing or Guangdong.


Applicants must submit their applications to the appropriate public security bureaus, which are determined by the location of the applicant's investment or their long-term residence. The processing of these applications can take from approximately 90 up to 180 working days, depending on the applicant’s category and excluding any time required for additional investigations. Upon completion of this period, the applications are then sent to the Ministry of Public Security for final assessment and approval. It's important to highlight that the documentation required for permanent residency varies significantly across different eligibility categories.


General Guidelines for Approval of Foreign Nationals' Eligibility for Permanent Residence in China published by the National Immigration Administration can be found at the link:


Specific information published by the Shanghai Municipal PSB for each category of people eligible for permanent residency application in Shanghai can be found at the link:


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