Due to China's socialist system, it is not yet possible for foreigners to immigrate to China. However, as a result of recent legislation, a "Green Card" system has been adopted, which allows for a form of permanent residency for cardholders. As such, for longer-term residency, all foreigners, after obtaining a visa for entry into China, based on their purpose of residency, must undertake several procedures in order to obtain a valid Residence Permit. This allows for the holder to reside in the municipality of registration for a period of, generally, one year, renewable indefinitely provided certain conditions continue to be met.
Similar to other countries, a Chinese visa allows for entry into, exit from or transit through Chinese territory. Visas are divided into the following classifications, depending on the purpose of travel:
- L: travel / visit
- F: business
- Z: employment
- X: student
- C: crewmember
- G: transit
- D: permanent residency issued overseas
- J-1: foreign resident correspondent
- J-2:foreign resident correspondent on temporary interview assignment
Visas are granted at the local Chinese Consulate or Embassy with jurisdiction over the applicant's domicile. An application form must be completed and supported by the appropriate documentation. However, a foreigner may obtain a new visa from the visa authorities inside China according to the type of the visa he/she holds on entry. According to the agreement concluded between the Chinese government and the applicant's home country, visa validity periods will vary.