How to get a Permanent Residence Permit in China

Introduced in 2004, the “Green Card” – also called “permanent residence permit” – is still considered difficult to obtain in China. Only foreigners who meet very specific requirements may apply for the permanent residence identity card.

Take a look at one of our previous articles: China Work Permit Lost? What to Do and How to Update Your Details

Who is eligible for a green card and what are the application procedures? Find out in this article!

What are the benefits of a green card?

The green card serves as identity card as well as resident permit for foreigners in China. One of the numerous advantages of holding such a card is the possibility to stay in China without any visa and without having to renew it every year. Indeed, the permanent residence permit has only to be renewed at the end of its validity period (10 years for adults and 5 years for children under 18).

On top of that, green-card holders enjoy simplified procedures when opening a bank account, buying a property, and much more. They also benefit from the same investment and education rights as Chinese citizens.

Be careful: Green cards can be denied or revoked for people who endanger national security, falsify application documents or don’t meet the requirements.

Who is eligible to get a green card? What are the procedures?

Below you will find an exhaustive list of the different categories of people who can apply for a permanent residence permit and the special documents to provide in each case. However, there are some core procedures and documents that are common to all categories.

General procedures for all applicants

The application has to be submitted at public securities authorities in China. The procedure usually takes up to 6 months from the application date, but in some cities, it may take less time. In Shanghai for example the procedure takes only 90 days.

Once granted, the green card is valid for 10 years, or 5 years for foreigners under 18. The permit is renewable, and the documents don’t have to be submitted again for the renewal if the applicant’s situation hasn’t changed.Documents required for all applicants:

  • The application form for permanent residence in China;
  • A copy of the applicant’s valid passport or other document;
  • A health certificate;
  • A document certifying that the applicant has no criminal record in the foreign country (issued by the Chinese consulate or embassy);
  • 4 complying photos of the applicant;
  • Additional documents depending on the application category.

Applicable fees:

  • Application fees: ¥1,500 /person
  • Certification fees: ¥300 /certificate

Eligibility and additional documents required

According to the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “foreigners applying for permanent residence in China must abide by Chinese laws, be in good health, have no criminal record and meet at least one of the following criteria.”

Note: China has recently relaxed measures to expand oppurtinities for foreigners seeking to work and live in China, read this article: Residence Permit Made Easier for Foreigners in China.

1. Having directly invested in China, and the investment having led to stable operations and tax payments for three consecutive years.

Investment requirements:

  1. The investment in China is equivalent to RMB 10 million;
  2. Investment in areas where the country implements foreign investment investments, following investment requirements (investment and tax amount and number of Chinese citizens employes);
  3. Establishment of high-tech or innovative enterprises with significant benefits.

Documents required for application:

  • The basic documents required for all applicants
  • Additional documents:
    • An approval certificate for the invested company
    • The registration certificate and annual inspection certificate
    • The capital report and personal tax payment certificate
    • If the investment is made in an industry listed in the Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries, you also need a letter of confirmation.

2. Being a deputy general manager, deputy factory manager, or holding a higher position; being an associate professor/research fellow/other professional senior or equivalent. The position has to be held for four consecutive years or more, with a cumulated residence period in China of at least three years within the four years, and a good record of tax payments.

The employer has to be one of the following entities:

  1. An institution under a department of the State Council or the provincial government;
  2. An outstanding college or university;
  3. A company or a government-supported institution leading a major engineering or scientific research project;
  4. A foreign-invested company that is export-oriented or specialized in high-tech, encouraged fields or advanced technology.

Documents required for application:

  • The basic documents required for all applicants
  • Additional documents:
    • A work certificate issued by the applicant’s employer
    • The applicant’s Foreign Expert Card or his Foreigner Employment Card
    • The employer’s registration certificate, annual inspection certificate and tax payment certificate
    • If the applicant’s employer is a foreign-invested company: certificate of approval and joint annual inspection certificate
    • If the applicant’s employer is a company or a government-supported institution leading a major engineering or scientific research project: project certificate issued by the government
    • If the applicant’s employer is specialized in high-tech: high-tech enterprise certificate
    • If the applicant’s employer is a foreign-invested company that is export-oriented or specialized in encouraged fields or advanced technology: relevant certificate

3. Having made a “great and outstanding contribution to China”.

Description of outstanding contribution:

  1. Oustanding contribution to China’s science and technology, education, culture, health, sports, and other undertakings;
  2. Engaged in public welfare activities and their development;
  3. Major contributions to promote friendly exchanges and cooperation between China and foreign countries, maintain world peace, and promote common development;
  4.  Other situations that have made outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social development.

Documents required for application:

  • The basic documents required for all applicants
  • Additional document: a recommendation letter and relevant certificates issued by Chinese governmental authorities

4. Being the spouse or unmarried child (<18 years old) of a person from one of the three categories above.

Documents required for application:

  • The basic documents required for all applicants
  • Additional documents:
    • The marriage certificate if the applicant is a spouse as above mentioned
    • If the applicant is an unmarried child: his birth certificate or proof of parenthood in case of adoption

5. Being the spouse of a Chinese citizen or a foreigner holding a green card in China, for five years or more, and having resided in China for five consecutive years or more and for at least nine months each year. The applicant should also have a stable source of income and housing.

Documents required for application:

  • The basic documents required for all applicants
  • Additional documents:
    • The permanent residence certificate of the applicant’s spouse if the spouse is Chinese, or the green card of the applicant’s foreign spouse
    • The marriage certificate
    • A notarized certificate of the applicant’s source of income
    • The certificate of housing lease or the property title

6. Children under the age of 18 who reunite with Chinese or foreign parents residing in China.

Documents required for application:

  • The basic documents required for all applicants
  • Additional documents:
    • The household registration certificate of the applicant’s parents if they are Chinese, or their green card if they are foreigners
    • The applicant’s birth certificate or proof of parenthood in case of adoption

7. Being 60 years old or more, without any direct relatives abroad but with sponsoring relatives in China, and having resided in China for five consecutive years or more and for at least nine months each year. The applicant should also have a stable source of income and housing.

Documents required for application:

  • The basic documents required for all applicants
  • Additional documents:
    • The household registration certificate of the applicant’s sponsoring relatives if they are Chinese, or their green card if they are foreigners
    • A notarized certificate of the applicant’s kinship
    • A document certifying that there are no direct relatives abroad
    • A notarized certificate of the applicant’s source of income or a notarized certificate of the sponsors’ financial guarantee
    • The notarized certificate of housing lease or the property title of the applicant or his sponsor relatives

(This article was published on October 28, 2019, and was updated on January 27, 2021.)

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You may find human resources-related concerns in China more complex than you expect.  S.J. Grand will help you make well-informed decisions for you and your business. Contact us for consultation and advice.

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