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27 Jun, 2012

China to Slash Work Permit Periods for Foreigners

By Zhao Yinan in Beijing and Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou

2012-06-27 (China Daily) – The minimum length for residential work permits for foreigners will be slashed from 180 days to just 90, according to the latest draft of a new immigration law currently under review.

The draft law on exit-entry administration is receiving its third review from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that commenced on Tuesday.

Zhang Bailin, vice-chairman of the NPC Law Committee, said the change was put forward because “some foreigners who come to China for temporary work stay less than half a year”.

If passed, the law will affect foreigners on short-term projects, analysts said, although long-term residents will still be able to apply for permits from 180 days to five years.

Foreigners employed in China are required to obtain residential work permits. But as the minimum length of the permit is six months, those who come to China to work for example, for one month, also get a residential permit for 180 days.

“Some people simply don’t need a six-month permit,” said Liu Guofu, an immigration law professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

Liu indicated that there might be management loopholes. “For example, some employees receive housing and transport subsidies as long as they are still in China, but they may have finished the project that they came for,” he said. “So, instead of issuing a universal certificate, it will be more economical for governments and companies to issue a certificate with a time period according to the project.”

According to Yi Jun, a human resources officer at a multinational company in Shanghai, a number of steps are involved in the hiring of a foreigner.

First, a job is offered. Then the company applies for an employment permit at a foreign employment center. At the same time, a residence permit is applied for at the exit-entry administration, which is under the public security bureau. “The validity period for these two permits is granted according to the contract duration presented by the company,” Yi said.

The draft received a mixed response from foreigners on Tuesday. While some of those interviewed by China Daily in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong seemed unconcerned, as they are on long-term contracts, others thought that the proposed regulations will deter people from coming to China.

“If an employer offers a job for only 90 days, I won’t find it attractive or worth the risk of changing my life path to come to China,” said Kerry Thysen, a Belgian teacher of French at Alliance Francaise de Canton, a French training center in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

“I pay the plane ticket, travel to China, rent an apartment and settle down. So actually I cannot save a lot in three months. If I fail to renew the contract or get employed by a new Chinese company and have to go back to my country when the work permit expires, I will probably use up any savings to buy flights back home,” Thysen, 32, said.

“Foreigners who work in China as expatriates from overseas headquarters, with their companies paying plane tickets and subsidizing accommodation, will not be concerned by the change,” Thysen added.

“However, for those who want to start a new career and life in China, 90 days are not enough,” said Thysen, who was an architect before he came to China to pursue his dream of teaching.

Amid ongoing efforts to curb the numbers of illegal foreign residents, the draft also proposed raising the financial penalty for companies that give foreigners fake invitation letters.

The proposal, if passed, will raise the punishment to 5,000 yuan ($790) from 2,000 yuan, for companies and institutions that provide fake certificates or invitation letters to unqualified foreigners. The clause also requires companies to cover the cost of deportation for foreigners.

Standing laws in China give no details on the financial punishment for companies who issue fake certificates and invitations to help unqualified foreigners to apply for a visa or a visa extension. The draft has suggested introducing a new category of visas, named “talent visas”, to attract more foreigners. It would also empower public security officers to collect biological data from foreigners.

The draft could be passed after the third review.