China plans to establish its first national immigration administration to improve governance and services for immigrants, refugees and border control, according to a draft State institutional reform plan released on March 13.
Experts said this would improve government efficiency, provide better services and protection for legal immigrants, and help maintain public order.
“More and more foreigners are visiting and working in China, and this poses new requirements for improving immigration management and services,” State Councilor Wang Yong said on March 13 when presenting the draft to the fourth plenary meeting of the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress.
To enhance the coordination and administration of immigration affairs, China plans to combine the Ministry of Public Security’s immigration and border inspection duties in a new national immigration administration under the ministry, said Wang.
The new administration’s main duties are creating and implementing immigration policies, managing affairs and procedures related to border control, and providing services for expatriates and Chinese citizens who are entering or exiting the country on personal business, he added.
At the same time, the new administration will manage refugee affairs, as well as coordinate the governance and repatriation of illegal immigrants.
The administration will also engage in international cooperation on immigration, Wang said.
The planned establishment of the new administration is the latest indication of the importance the authorities attach to attracting highly skilled foreigners, and the role they play in helping to transform China’s economy with science and innovation.
In January, China began issuing 10-year, multi-entry visas in nine selected cities to attract senior entrepreneurs, scientists, artists and other highly skilled foreigners.
The visa also applies to their spouses and underage children, according to the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.
From 2000 to 2017, China’s foreign migrant population nearly doubled from 508,000 to 1 million, according to a report from the International Organization for Migration.
However, this number pales in comparison to the 50 million immigrants living in the United States, the largest in the world in 2017, the report said.
He Weibao, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said immigrants have contributed greatly to socioeconomic and scientific development in the US.
In 2016, around 46 percent of innovators in the US were immigrants or the children of immigrants, and 55 percent had doctorates in STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — according to a survey by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a US nonprofit public policy think tank.
“Attracting the best and brightest minds around the world and allowing them to innovate and flourish have been the keys to US economic and technological dominance in the past decades,” said He. “China is hoping to emulate the success of the US.”
The new administration is a “necessary step in centralizing immigration-related duties currently performed by multiple bodies”, thus allowing greater efficiency, as well as improved services and protection for legal immigrants, he said.