(Beijing) — Recent changes to U.S. immigration policy could present China with an opportunity to attract overseas talent, but an independent immigration office is needed to make the system more appealing to foreigners, according to a private think tank that advocates globalization.
Shortly after his inauguration, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel into the U.S. for citizens from seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days.
China, as the world’s second-largest economy, could be an alternative destination for skilled immigrants, according to Wang Huiyao, head of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), a non-governmental organization advising the government on global talent issues.
However, the country’s immigration policy, particularly the permanent-resident or “green card” system, is being hampered by red tape and a shortage of police resources, according to a new assessment by the CCG.
The CCG earlier this week reaffirmed a call for the Chinese government to set up a separate immigration agency independent of the Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the police force in China, in order to improve China’s green card system, which allows holders free entry into China for 10 years.
The police authority, which is already facing challenges in maintaining public order, has been criticized for lacking the level of immigration expertise seen in many developed countries such as the U.S.
The Public Security Ministry’s immigration mandate also overlaps with those of other government departments, which has led to an increase in red tape, Wang said.
China’s green card system, which has been in place since the 1960s, is one of the most tightly controlled in the world as it is largely reserved for skilled professionals who are perceived as “friendly” toward China.
Fewer than 1,600 foreigners were granted a green card last year in comparison with over 1 million foreigners in the U.S. in 2015, according to the latest figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The central authority has in recent years moved to open the system wider in a bid to attract top-tier talent to help bolster the slowing economy.
Among the high-profile Chinese green card holders is Nobel Prize-winning Canadian economist Robert Mundell, who was issued a card in 2005.
China needs to bring itself in line with other countries by separating its immigration unit from the police force, Wang said.
The green card system is key to attracting top international talent to come and work in China, and it makes greater sense if China can have an independent immigration office, Wang said.
Cheng Quansheng, a senior advisor to the State Council, China’s cabinet, said at a recent forum hosted by the CCG that a future immigration agency should be under the direct control of the State Council instead of being a unit affiliated with the police.
Foreign applicants might be taken aback by the requirement for them to go through the Public Security Ministry, a government agency that deals with criminal suspects and lawbreakers, he said.（By Qi Zhanning, Wang Mingting and Li Rongde）