More great news for foreigners hoping to plan their careers in China.
A new pilot program announced by the Ministry of Public Security last week stipulates that any expat who has been employed for at least two consecutive years in the country can apply for a five-year work permit.
That's a huge step up from the current system, which requires expats to reapply for a new work permit each year, even if they're on multi-year job contracts.
The pilot program will be rolled out over the next few months in nine cities and provinces, including Beijing, Wuhan and Hebei, as well as 11 free-trade zones in places like Tianjin, Chongqing and Henan.
It's unclear at the moment exactly which other cities and free-trade zones will be involved, but a statement on the ministry's website says it will be working with the following governments: Tianjin, Hebei, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Anhui, Henan, Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan and Shaanxi.
Residence permit rules are also being eased. Caixin reports that expats who reside in the country "for more than four consecutive years while residing in the country for at least six months out of each year, and who meet a certain salary and income tax threshold" will be able to apply for a permanent residence permit. No details about those thresholds are available yet.
China has been gradually easing up on visa rules for foreigners. Back in January, it was announced that foreigners with postgrad degrees could obtain Z visas without prior work experience. And last year, foreigners over the age of 60 were allowed to obtain work permits (provided they were senior executives in large corporations).
Authorities have also considered relaxing green card requirements. Around 5,000 foreigners — including soon-to-be-retired basketball player Stephon Marbury — have been granted permanent residence in China since the green card program was started in 2004, according to China Daily.
China has also recently changed up the work permit application process, switching to a point-based grading system which classifies workers into three categories: 'A' for top-tiered talent, 'B' for professional talent and 'C' for unskilled workers or those working in the service industry. That also coincides with a new "work permit card," which is said to replace the standard employment permit and foreign expert certificates.
China's new work permit card may look a lot like the elusive "Permanent Residence Card."