[Policy Report]: Strike Hard Against Immigration: China’s New Exit-Entry Law

By Melissa Lefkowitz for US-Asia Law Institute

In July of this year, China enacted its first major reform to its immigration policy since 1986. Passed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in 2012, the Exit-Entry Administration Law, which has replaced the Law for Foreigners and the Law for Citizens, features harsher penalties for visa overstays and unauthorized work. This new law, along with China’s upcoming revisions to its permanent residency application system, makes abundantly clear the fact that China has little interest in becoming a receiving country for transnational migrants. Yet, as the country with the second highest GDP in the world, porous borders and strong incentives to maintain healthy diplomatic relations with the global South, it is necessary for China to rethink its piecemeal policies and opt for a more comprehensive strategy toward international immigration.

Although this is not the first time China has cracked down on visa applications—visa issuance was severely restricted to foreigners leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics—this is the first time that foreigners will face detention and investigation for overstaying their visas (up to sixty days “if the case is complicated”). Foreigners working illegally will now face detention (five to fifteen days) or monetary fines of up to 20,000 RMB ($3,260 USD). Previously, the penalty for unauthorized work did not exceed a monetary fine of 1,000 RMB ($163.00 USD). Companies and institutions that provide fake certificates or invitation letters to unqualified foreigners will be fined up to 10,000 RMB ($1,630.00 USD) per person, and be responsible for the cost of their deportation. The fines will not exceed 100,000 RMB ($16,290 USD), as opposed to 50,000 RMB ($8,145.00 USD) in the previous law. Lastly, foreigners who own companies and delay paying wages to workers will be prevented from leaving the country (China Daily, July 1).

Historically, China has not been a destination country for labor. For centuries, China has sent its workers abroad, as Chinese companies have in recent years in establishing operations in Africa. Yet significant inflows of labor have emerged over the past decade. According to a 2011 Brookings Report, China’s transnational migrants are increasing at an “unprecedented scale,” or ten percent annually since the year 2000, according to Yang Huanming, vice-minister of the Ministry of Public Security (Brookings, September 8, 2011; Xinhua, June 30, 2012). China’s 2010 census, the first to record the amount of foreigners residing in the country, documented approximately 594,000 foreigners living in China in 2010… [KEEP READING HERE]

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