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China to draft immigration law

June 22, 2010

A haven for investment guru’s, trade junkies and business busybodies, China will soon start controlling and tracking who washes up on their shores.  The country is soon to introduce its first ever immigration laws in an effort to control the increasing number of foreigners coming to China to work.

According to a draft, the law will require all foreigners entering China for more than six months to be classified as skilled or unskilled workers, or for  skills migration or investor migration. The ultimate aim will be for China to monitor and allow in only those workers who they feel will positively contribute towards the growth of a harmonious Chinese economy and society.

“In the era of globalization, China needs to attract a variety of talents, investors, skilled workers, and in particular “seagulls” — a Chinese term for foreign merchants who work with multinationals and must travel across the world — to contribute to its development”, said Zhang Jijiao, researcher with the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology under the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). China is currently in the process of studying the best immigration laws already in place in western countries.

Due to the numerous economic opportunities available in China, the country also plays host to several illegal immigrants. Vietnamese are especially valued by the factory owners of southern China, because of their willingness to work for wages of 450 yuan (US$66) a month, less than half of what a local would get. Illegal immigrants from impoverished North Korea can also be found working on farms and building sites in northeast China, and there is increasing demand among the new urban middle class for Filipino maids/ nannies, who are prized for their ability to speak English at low costs.

While a timeline for the law is yet uncertain, China already keeps a tight vigil on the activities, locations and professions of foreigners entering the country. A strict rule requires all foreigners, regardless of duration of stay to register their whereabouts with the local police within 24 hours of arrival in the country and to re-register every time they re-enter China or relocate. Earlier, China restricted the entry of HIV positive people, however this regulation was recently scrapped.

In 2007, 2.85 million foreigners or 10 percent of the 26.11 million foreigners in China were registered with the Ministry of Public Security as working legally in China. In December 2009, China’s largest city Shanghai, announced a foreign population of 152,000 people, a 14 per cent increase year-on-year. In Beijing, the number was 110,000 in 2008, while in southern Guangdong the foreign population was nearly 58,000 people in the first half of 2009. The census which will be conducted from the end of this year will include foreigners who have lived in China for more than six months and will provide a clearer picture as to the number of immigrants in China and their qualifications.


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