On June 30, 2012, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a new Exit-Entry Administration Law (the “Law”), which will take effect on July 1, 2013.(3) The Law enacts wideranging changes to the rules regulating foreigners’ visas, residence, and working rights in China in an effort to control and decrease illegal entry, illegal stays, and illegal employment of foreigners in China.

Key provisions of the Law include the following:

  1. Stricter Visa Issuance Policy

The visa issuance policy will be more stringent to prevent illegal immigration, illegal residence, or illegal employment of foreigners. For example, foreigners who apply for visas will need to provide written invitations issued by entities or individuals in China. Entities or individuals that issue written invitations shall be responsible for their authenticity. Applicants who provide false documents or who cannot afford their stay in China will be denied a visa.

In addition, the Law gives visa-issuing authorities more discretion to refuse a visa for any reason if issuance of a visa is “not suitable.” Nor are visa-issuing authorities required to explain to the applicant the reason for the refusal.

  1. Residence Permits Required for Foreigners Residing in China

The Law provides that, where visas held by foreigners specify that foreigners need to apply for residence permits upon entry, foreigners shall, within 30 days upon entry, apply for such permits at the relevant public security bureau.

For foreigners who stay in Chinese hotels, such hotels shall process check-in formalities for them in accordance with regulations for public security administration of the hotel industry, and submit foreigners’ check-in information to the local public security authority. For foreigners who reside or stay in places other than hotels, they or the persons who accommodate them shall, within 24 hours after they check in, go through the registration formalities with the local public security authority.

The Law requires that citizens, companies, and other organizations report to local public security bureaus any foreigners who illegally enter, live, or work in China.

Foreigners who illegally reside in the country may be given a warning. In serious cases, they will be fined RMB 500 per day, not to exceed a total of RMB 10,000, or be detained for 5 to 15 days.

  1. Work Permits and Residence Permits Required for Foreigners Working In China

The Law reinforces the importance of work permits and residence permits in regulating foreigners who are working in China. Foreigners who work in China should obtain work permits and residence permits for work. No entities or individuals may employ foreigners without the required work permits or residence permits for work.

A fine of RMB 5,000 to 20,000 will be imposed on a foreigner who works illegally in China. In serious circumstances, a detention of 5 to 15 days may also be imposed.  

Companies illegally employing foreigners will incur a fine of RMB 10,000 for each foreigner so employed up to RMB 100,000 in total.  

  1. Catalogue for Foreigners Working in China

According to Article 42 of the Law, China will for the first time issue a “catalogue” to assist foreigners who are working in China. The Law authorizes departments within the State Council to formulate and regularly adjust such a catalogue, taking into account the needs of social development and the supply and demand of human resources in the market.

  1. Extension of Visas Capped

In the past, a foreigner with a visa could apply for multiple extensions so as to stay in China for a longer period. The Law makes it clear that visa holders shall apply to extend their visas seven days in advance of the visa’s expiry date. However, the Law now explicitly imposes a cap on the total period of any extension. Specifically, the total extended period shall not be longer than the original period set forth in the visa.

  1. Creation of National Database for Exit and Entry Information

Currently, both the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have their own information systems related to exit and entry management. Article 5 of the Law provides that the state will set up and maintain a uniform exit-entry administration information platform to be shared by relevant governmental departments.

With this centralized database, any foreigner’s information, including his or her personal profile and information regarding exits from and entries into China, will be recorded and may be retrieved by different Chinese authorities at any time.

  1. Biological Data to Be Collected

With the approval of the State Council, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may, as needed for the purposes of exit-entry administration, formulate regulations regarding the collection of fingerprints and other biometric information from individuals who are exiting or entering China.  

Furthermore, where a foreign government has special regulations on issuing visas to Chinese citizens or the exit-entry administration of Chinese citizens, the Chinese government may take corresponding and equivalent measures.

  1. “Green Cards” Introduced

Foreigners who have made remarkable contributions to China’s economic and social development or meet other conditions for permanent residence in China may obtain the qualification for permanent residence upon application to and approval by the Ministry of Public Security.

Administrative measures for examination and approval of foreigners’ permanent residence in China shall be stipulated by the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in consultation with the relevant departments under the State Council.

  1. Refugees

The Law revises China’s domestic law to reflect China’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, of which China is a member. According to Article 46 of the Law, foreigners who apply for refugee status may stay in China based on temporary identification issued by the public security authority. Foreigners who are identified as refugees may stay or reside in China based on refugee identification issued by the public security authority.