• Foreign workers will now have to file for one unified permit to work and live in China.

Foreign workers will now have to file for one unified permit to work and live in China. (Photo : Getty Images)

The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs will now combine two foreign permits into one.

According to the announcement, a trial run will be done in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin municipalities as well as in Hebei, Anhui, Shandong, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

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Zhang Jianguo, head of the administration, said, "The unification eliminates the replicated application hurdle and improves communication, aiming to better serve overseas talent coming to work in China."

Under the current system, foreign workers need to obtain two permits. These are the employment license for foreigners issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security or a foreign expert work permit provided by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.

An expert said that this system makes it hard for foreign talent to work in China.

"Legally, it is pretty hard to tell which category an applicant belongs to," said Liu Guofu, a professor of immigration law at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

"For example, if a foreign specialist from Microsoft applies for a work permit in China, is he an expert or not?" he said. "The old rule is more likely a product of a planned economy, and the new one is market-driven."

The new system will get the approval of any foreign workers. Donald Guadagni, who teaches English at Ningbo City College of Vocational Technology, said, "An identification card is an excellent choice and is overdue."

"The issuance of this type of credential would be welcome by many foreigners, as it could serve as an alternate State-issued ID for the purpose of in-country travel, railways and banking services," he said.