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China is hoping to attract more overseas talent and investment by making it easier for foreign nationals to obtain a “green card”.

Permanent residency was presently open to too few foreign

nationals and standards for granting the status were too high, said state news agency Xinhua, quoting a directive from the State Council and the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

Under present regulations, which came into effect in 2004, foreigners holding permanent residency do not need a visa to enter the country. They may invest, drive and enrol their children in schools without requiring further approvals or paying extra fees.

READ MORE: Being a foreign worker in China is not always smooth and easy

Until last June, only those foreigners who worked in government departments or laboratories of “key national projects” could apply for the status.

The rule was then relaxed to include researchers at more institutes, including those with international funding.

The directive yesterday said foreign nationals in other industries should also be allowed to apply for the status – but it did not specify which ones.

It urged all levels of government to simplify application procedures.

Last February, Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) told foreign nationals in China that Beijing would make it easier for them to apply for permanent residency.

The rules surrounding permanent residency stipulate that only applicants who invest a certain level, or who make “outstanding contributions” to China, can be granted the status. They also require applicants to be “healthy”. These requirements will not change.

READ MORE: China may ease green card rules to attract foreign workers

The directive noted that some foreigners who held permanent residency had not received their due benefits.

It said that they should be included in the national social welfare system and be entitled to provident funds and medical insurance.

It also vowed to loosen restrictions on duration of stay. Under the present system, green card holders must stay in China for more than three months each year, or for more than one year in five if they have special permission.

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