|http://www.sina.com.cn 2005/04/12 16:37 北京青年报|
It doesn't grow in your garden. It doesn't come from the States. It's totally Chinese, and a new reality. We all know that while Canada, the United States and Australia are prime immigrant destinations, China is most definitely not. She has enough on her hands with her 1.3 billion citizens and has no need for more.
However, China "imports" foreign expertise in the form of talented people with special skills. Having been a foreign expert here for 14 years now, I am aware that most Chinese even in Beijing and Shanghai know little of our actualsituation. Here is the key fact: We generally sign a one-year contract, which may be extended a certain number of times. A foreigner working for a PRC state institution receives a Z visa covering the period of his contract. If he wants to leave the country during this period, say for a holiday, to attending a conference abroad, or for a family emergency, he must first ask his unit to issue a permission form. He then deposits his request, along with passport, residence permit and expert card, at the Public Security Bureau, and five days later he returns to pick up the visa that will allow him to re-enter China after going abroad. This visa is not free. For administrative reasons the cost depends on one's country of origin -- for Canadians, for example, it is 310 yuan.
What happens to a foreign expert who ends his contract? No contract, no visa. A tourist visa is good for three months. Only recently has it become possible to extend a tourist visa multiple times. If a foreigner is married to a Chinese citizen and does not intend to work in the PRC, he or she can obtain a tanqin visa that must be re-issued every three months -- a big waste of time and money!
Since China entered the WTO three years ago, she has opened further to the outside world and adopted new regulations to attract investment from abroad. Foreign investors who bring in at least $500,000 are at the top of the list of those who can apply for a Chinese "green card" for themselves and for their family members.
On 15 August 2004, China announced that the turn of foreign experts in the information, cultural and educational fields had come. The newspapers made it sound simple: you apply and that's it! Actually, it was not so easy: lots of documents were needed, plus a non-refundable 1,500-yuan processing fee, and... patience. The answer would come within six months.
I applied at the beginning of November and got the answer in March. On March 16, a ceremony was held at the Public Security Bureau in Beijing: a dozen foreigners, including several overseas Chinese who had lost their right to a PRC passport when they took non-Chinese citizenship, were granted a green card. I was one of three lucky ones in the category "outstanding person"; so was the Canadian Nobel Prize winner Robert Mendell. There were also some aged foreigners who came to China before Liberation and are still here. One official said that so far, fewer than 100 persons had been granted a permanent residence permit and that the number would probably not grow much.
The comments and questions I have heard since show that neither foreigners nor Chinese know much about the Chinese green card. Did I lose my Canadian citizenship when I became a Chinese citizen? Answer: A permanent residence permit is not a passport and has nothing to do with citizenship. The permit is like the shenfenzheng for Chinese citizens, merely an ID card that allows us to open a bank account, pick up a parcel at the post office, board a train or a plane -- and especially to re-enter China as often as we want without having to apply for a visa or show our passport, as we are now "residents" of this country.
Perhaps most significant, the permit allows any foreigner who has one and retires within China to stay in the country. When I came home from work last week, some of my neighbours were chatting outside. They had seen me on TV and were aware of the news. One said, "Now you can retire!" Later it dawned on me that he meant I would receive a retirement pension from the Chinese state, which is not true.
The green card only grants the right of permanent residency. It is not associated with any housing, medical care or pension plan -- as many mistakenly believe, to judge from some of the comments that have appeared on the internet. I must survive by myself, with my own savings. Nonetheless, it is a relief, an honour and a source of much satisfaction to be accepted as a permanent part of the scene by the Chinese people.