Foreign permanent residents in China will have their "green cards" upgraded starting in July, which may make their daily life and work easier in the country, according to a reform plan issued by the Ministry of Public Security on Monday.
The existing permanent resident's permit, known as the Chinese green card, will be replaced by the Foreign Permanent Residence Identity Card.
Similar to the second generation of ID cards for Chinese citizens, the machine-readable smart card will contain a chip in which the foreigner's identity information is kept, and the information will be shared by railways, airlines, hotels and banks, according to the plan. The card also has anti-counterfeiting features, officials said.
All the preparation work will be completed before the end of June, and green card holders can then go to local public security agencies to replace their cards. If they choose not to exchange them for the new card, the existing cards are still valid until the expiration date, according to the ministry.
China began to issue permanent residency permits in 2004. However, over the years, getting a Chinese green card has been difficult due to the high requirements. Ministry figures show that from 2004 to 2013, only 7,356 foreigners were granted the status.
Since September 2015, governments in China have gradually eased the residency and entry policies for foreigners, which has helped attract more talent from overseas to invest or open businesses and boosted international exchanges in China.
In 2016 alone, 1,576 foreigners became permanent residents in China, up by 163 percent year-on-year, according to the ministry.