Reuters reports on the longer processing times for China residence permits. Under the new law, the public security bureau (PSB) exit-entry division has up to 15 working days to adjudicate a residence permit application. The problem, according to companies that employ foreigner nationals, is that PSB holds the employee’s passport during this period, so the employee has no ID for business travel. This disrupts normal business operations, impacting a company’s bottom line.
Key points from the Reuters story:
- Noncitizens are required to show passports for train or air travel within China or internationally.
- “The increased processing time from five working days had prompted a ‘flood’ of complaints from the expatriate community, said Gary Chodorow, a Beijing-based immigration lawyer.”
- “Chodorow said the new rules could hamper travel for foreign executives who oversee offices throughout Asia, especially as cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have encouraged multinationals to establish Asia-Pacific headquarters there.”
- In late August, Qu Yunhai, the deputy director for the Ministry of Public Security’s Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration, said 15 working days was the maximum authorities would hold passports and that individuals could ask for their passports for emergency travel, although it was unclear how that would work outside normal office hours.
- A Ministry of Public Security official in Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, said applicants would have to wait “about seven working days.”
A few other thoughts on this topic:
- Under the law, a person applying to PSB to extend a visa or stay permit must do so 7 days before their authorized stay period expires. Similarly, to extend a residence permit, a person should apply 30 days before the old permit expires. The law is silent as to the consequences of filing late.
- If an application is complete and appears to be approvable, PSB will issue an acceptance notice (受理回执) with a validity period for the 7 working day processing period for visas and stay permits or 15 working day processing period for residence permits.
- Longer processing times are probably due to the government’s desire to more thoroughly check applicants’ eligibility, such as completing background checks based on applicants’ fingerprints and contacting companies to confirm employment offers.
- Noncitizens in China need to show passports not just for travel but also for hotel check-in and banking. While some PSB officials have stated that acceptance notices can be used for domestic travel, transportation authorities have made no such announcement. When Qu Yunhai of the Ministry of Public Security was asked about this, no direct answer was forthcoming, according to a Bloomberg story (also quoting Gary Chodorow).
This problem isn’t intractable. Potential solutions include:
- PSB could examine and copy the original passport when the application is filed, then have the foreign national return with the passport when the application is approved so the visa, stay permit, or residence permit can be added.
- The State Council could amend its regulations to make clear that an acceptance notice can be used in lieu of a passport for domestic travel, hotel check-in, banking, and other purposes.
- As in the case of Shanghai, the PSB could process applications without using the maximum 15 working days allowed by law.