What about green cards for citizenship in China

Foreign nationals working in China are usually given a one-year renewable work visa. A lot of paperwork is required for the annual renewal. To make it easier for foreigners living in China, a new immigration law is now being discussed.

Jonathan Steward came to Beijing in 2007 to work as a management consultancy manager. Like many other foreigners working in China, he was granted a one-year renewable work visa. A lot of paperwork is required for the annual renewal. "I could stay in China for 20 years if I kept working here, but under current law I would never become a resident of the country," said Steward. "Sometimes I feel like I'm not welcome here and that I should return to my home country at some point."

The number of foreigners allowed to stay in China for at least six months reached around 530,000 in 2007, the Ministry of Public Security announced. Entry to China has become easier in the past ten years, although it is still difficult for foreigners to get a long-term visa that is valid for up to ten years.

But that's something the government hopes to change through a new law that is being drafted. China does not allow dual citizenship, and until 2004 only a few foreigners were allowed to live in China for long periods without a visa. In 2004, China introduced the Alien Permanent Residence Permit for foreigners, which is the Chinese version of the Green Card, but so far only a few have access to it. People who have done excellent service for the country, have special skills, or invest large sums of money in cash can apply for a visa. Also, the spouses of Chinese citizens and permanent residents can get the visa. Businessmen with direct and stable investments (not less than $ 500,000) for three consecutive years can apply for a multi-year visa.

The regulations are considered by many to be too strict to attract skilled workers and keep them in China for a long time. This demonstrates China's conservative attitude towards foreigners, Ming Hai, US lawyer specializing in immigration law, told the Global Times. Less than 650 foreigners received a multi-year visa in 2005 - one year after the regulation came into force, according to Liu Guofu, law professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

In addition, China currently has no specific laws for the administration of foreigners in China, even for those who have a multi-year visa. The current regulations for foreigners are mainly under the regulations issued by the administration for entry and exit. "The current regulations are nowhere near enough to deal with the various problems foreigners face in China. Even with a green card, they cannot enjoy education or medical and social security benefits," said Liu Guofu. He went on to say that the regulations are in a chaotic state, some even contradicting each other.

Meanwhile, people who illegally enter China and commit crimes are being treated with special measures. For example, last month the police in Guangzhou announced the largest drug smuggling case in 60 years. Police confiscated 1,033 kilograms of heroin and several African immigrants who lived in Guangzhou were arrested, the Nanfang Metropolis Daily reported.

The discrepancies could be resolved by a law that has been under discussion for several years. In May, Zhang Jijiao, a researcher at the Institute of Ethnology & Anthropology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, announced that China's first naturalization law was being drafted, the Singapore-based United Morning News reported. "Scientists in China and the National People's Congress plan to pass a law for international immigrants that would better manage the smooth transition from China from an emigration country to an immigration country," he was quoted as saying.

The Ministry of Public Security began this process to pass a new law in 2004, Xinmin Weekly reported. "The immigration law is likely to come out in early 2011. If not until then, we will have to wait three or five years for it," Liu Guofu, who was involved in the draft, told Wednesday Global Times.

He said the new immigration law should address all matters affecting foreigners and include regulations on entering and leaving China, long-term residence permits, border controls, deportation, refugees and cross-border crimes. "More provisions are being made, especially for asylum seekers and cross-border crimes, as our current law has many weaknesses in this regard," said Liu.

Regarding the guarantee of more opportunities for foreigners to live permanently in China, Liu thinks that the new law will not be that much more flexible. "The new law is a fundamental and general law. It is a summary and review of the previous rules for foreigners," said Liu. However, the new law will include new types of visas, which would make the visa validity period more flexible.

"A new immigration law is a step in the right direction for China to cope with the growing numbers of foreigners entering the country, and I am sure foreigners will respect Chinese law far more and bring stability to China if they do people accept them as part of their society, "says Jonathan Steward.

Liu says China should not be hasty in easing restrictions because the country has only just begun to interact with so many different cultures. "The government is very careful about new regulations. That is why so many steps are required. Once regulations are approved by the public security authorities, they must be approved by the State Council's Legislative Bureau."

Liu told the Global Times that the new law will include special regulations for overseas Chinese, making it easier for them to get residency permits in China. "It would be nice if the new immigration law eased restrictions on overseas Chinese so that they could easily enter and leave the country, even if they were a different nationality," said Cao Huasong, a Chinese engineer with permanent residency in Canada , opposite on Wednesday Global Times.