Ethnic Chinese living outside China can now get extended visas

This article is more than 12 months old

Many ethnic Chinese living outside of China will be able to apply for visas valid for much longer stays from today, as the country tries to attract overseas Chinese to live and do business there.

Following changes to visa rules, foreigners of Chinese origin will be able to apply for visas valid for multiple entries over a period of five years, up from one year previously.

The changes will also see validity periods for residency permits for these foreigners extended from three years to five, reported the state-run China Daily last week.

China's Ministry of Public Security announced the changes last week, and said the move is meant to make it easier for these foreigners to "return home" to visit families, do business and run personal errands.

A foreigner of Chinese origin refers to either a former Chinese citizen who has obtained foreign citizenship, or the children of present or former Chinese citizens, according to China's official definition, reported South China Morning Post.

Such an individual would need to have one parent, grandparent or ancestor who is or was a Chinese citizen. The changes would most directly affect former Chinese citizens and their children, since it would be easier for them to prove their Chinese origin by submitting official documents issued by China, such as copies of their Chinese passports or identity cards, or those of their relatives.

Documents issued by overseas governments certifying their Chinese ethnicity can also be submitted, but these would have to be assessed by the Chinese embassy or consulate in the country of their origin, according to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office in Shanghai.

According to China Daily, Mr Qu Yunhai, director of the Ministry of Public Security's Exit and Entry Administration Bureau, said last week that the move was an upgrade of similar measures issued in recent years to encourage overseas Chinese "to participate in China's economic development".

"Such rules have played a positive role in serving China's social and economic development and attracting talent with innovative and entrepreneurial spirit," he said.

Dr Yew Chiew Ping, head of the Singapore University of Social Sciences' contemporary China studies programme, said the visa changes are part of China's soft power strategy to reach out to more overseas Chinese.

"In this sense, the Chinese government may believe that overseas Chinese would develop more positive or favourable views of China once they visit or live there and see for themselves the rapid and tremendous socio-economic transformation in the country," she said.