New rules put flesh on the bones of a more equal system

Updated: 2016-02-22 08:09

By Ian Morrison(China Daily)

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The feeling of triumph I felt when I received my Chinese green card in 2014 was one that I will never forget. Triumph is certainly the appropriate word, as Chinese permanent residents' permits are regarded as one of the most difficult to obtain in the world due to the high requirements involved.

That's why I am pleased to see the proposals in the document issued jointly on Thursday by the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council on the management of foreigners' permanent residence, as these will hopefully make things easier for those following in my footsteps.

One of the most important proposals outlined in the document is that the application and approval process will be simplified and shortened. I submitted my application in 2010 and did not receive the treasured card until 2014, so you can see why this proposal rings a bell with me.

Many countries have clear criteria relating to the application and approval process for permanent residence, such as a set period of time in which the application will either be accepted or rejected, and the applicant will be notified of the decision. I sincerely hope that, when these proposals get fleshed out and become actual laws and regulations, that is something the Chinese authorities will pay serious attention to.

Another important factor that the proposals take into account is to increase the relevance and usefulness of the Chinese green card.

At the moment, when I need to produce identification for official purposes, I always take both my passport and my green card. I have found that the green card is mostly greeted by a blank or quizzical look, and then I am asked for my passport.

In my experience, the purpose of the green card is currently more or less that of a 10-year visa.

Those foreigners who do manage to obtain a green card are people who have a great deal of commitment to China. Most of us consider it to be our home and have a great deal of respect for China and its people.

But respect is a two-way street, so qualification for the green card and recognition as a permanent resident ought to be accompanied by equal access to the services enjoyed by all other permanent residents of China.

That's why the document issued on Thursday is very important. It puts flesh on the bones of the system by proposing that green card holders be put on an equal footing in terms of property purchases, financial services, application for driving licenses, hotel registration and transportation, as well as coverage by the social security system.

In addition, the proposal that automatic machines at railway stations, banks, insurance agencies and hotels should be able to read green card holders' information is one that would make life a great deal easier.

It is to be hoped that the related departments can get cracking and take heed of the central government's call to draft rules for the implementation of these proposals. And the sooner the better, so that more foreign residents in China can benefit from them at an earlier date.

(China Daily 02/22/2016 page3)