Foreigners of Chinese origin will be allowed to apply for visas from this Thursday that permit them to stay in China for five years or enter the country multiple times over that period, provided they meet set criteria. The new policy, which takes effect from February 1, is an improvement on the current one-year multiple-entry visa for this group. Foreigners of Chinese origin with residency will be able to extend the period of their stay from three to five years. The changes, announced by the Ministry of Public Security last week, are expected to attract more overseas ethnic Chinese people to do business or live in China, according to the authorities. I’m ethnic Chinese – do I qualify? According to China’s official definition, a foreigner of Chinese origin refers to a former Chinese citizen who has obtained foreign citizenship, or the offspring of present or former Chinese citizens. The applicant only needs to have one parent, grandparent or ancestor who is or was a Chinese citizen. The authorities specified no limit on the number of generations. But while the policy is open to all such foreigners, according to the ministry, applicants are required to prove their Chinese origin. This means submitting official documents issued either by the Chinese government or the authorities in the country where the applicant applies. Could you be a ‘high-end’ foreigner? China offers 10-year free visa to top talent Documents proving Chinese origin include copies of the applicant’s or their relatives’ Chinese passports or identity cards. Certificates from overseas governments will also be accepted after these are assessed by the Chinese embassy or consulate in their country of origin, according to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office in Shanghai. Other conditions The new policy also makes it relatively easy for applicants by not imposing any restrictions on their reasons for visiting. Emotional journeys: Chinese Americans find roots in Guangdong Such visas can be issued to overseas ethnic Chinese people if they need to visit their relatives, conduct business or cultural exchanges, or deal with any personal matters in China, according to the ministry. People who need to stay for longer periods because of work, study or other matters can apply for a five-year residency permit, the ministry said. Policy purpose The policy is aimed at encouraging more overseas Chinese to “participate in China’s economic development”, Qu Yunhai, the head of the ministry’s bureau of exit and entry administration, said last week. A trial run was introduced in free-trade zones and economic reform zones in a number of provinces and cities, including Shanghai and Guangdong, last March. China names Microsoft executive as first ‘high-end’ foreigner The ministry will continue improving the system for issuing permanent residency to foreigners, Qu said. Official data show 598 million exits and entries across the Chinese border last year, up 4.76 per cent from 2016. About half – or 292 million of the trips were made by citizens on the mainland – a 6.73 per cent increase from the previous year, according to the ministry.