Chinese officials have starting drafting the country’s first immigration law in order to manage the skyrocketing numbers of foreigners who have come to China in the past few years. The first draft of the law is expected to classify potential immigrants into different categories such as skilled or unskilled labor and job and investor immigration, according to state media.
Details of the policy haven’t been released yet, so what this means to most of us Shanghaiist readers isn’t clear yet. Would it be more difficult for expats to get visas to stay? Would there be options to apply for long-term residency or even Chinese citizenship? Knowing China, a more complex classification system for immigration just implies more red tape to deal with.
China has never had a comprehensive immigration law or chosen to limit immigration into the country, save for health reasons. The only regulations that have come close are rules relating to exit/entry administration and invitations for foreign investment.
But the number of foreigners living and working in the country is growing. In 2007, more than 10 percent of the 26 million foreigners who entered China came for employment, according to the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration. Statistics point to a pattern of more foreigners staying in China for longer periods. In Shanghai, there were 152,000 registered foreigners last year, a 14 percent increase on 2008.
The pace of China’s booming economy has not only attracted foreigners in business and investment fields, the number of illegal immigrants, namely from Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines, have sharply increased since the financial crisis. Illegal immigrants find jobs in factories, farms, building sites, as well as in urban households as nannies or aiyis. China was once a main source of migrants to other countries; now the large numbers of foreigners choosing to migrate into China is a strong indicator of China’s growing global economic status, say experts.
According to China Daily, China today is more interested in attracting skilled talent, investors and what are known as “seagulls” – foreign merchants who work with multinationals and travel around the world – to contribute to the development of the economy.
The government has yet to give a timeline for the new immigration policy, but it appears they are in the process of actively gathering information on immigration trends. For the first time, foreigners will be included in China’s next national census in November in order to more accurately monitor numbers.