China aims to provide more efficient and convenient immigration services, especially after a record number of foreigners entered and exited the country in 2018, immigration authorities said.
Foreigners entered and exited the country more than 95 million times in 2018, up 11.6 percent year-on-year, according to the National Immigration Administration. China has become a popular destination, particularly for visitors from South Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia, the administration said.
Foreigners entered China more than 100,000 times via 72 hour and 144 hour visa-free stopovers in 2018, an increase of 23.9 percent year-on-year, it added. The visa-free policy has been introduced in many Chinese cities to attract more foreign visitors.
The administration said the increasing number of people entering and exiting China has posed challenges for border control authorities, leading to simplified inspection procedures. People entering and exiting the country－both Chinese citizens and foreigners－were inspected by immigration administration authorities more than 651 million times in 2018 with the average inspection time less than 45 seconds.
To provide more convenient immigration services for foreigners, Beijing opened two new centers on Wednesday, offering visa, residence permit and permanent residency services.
The center in Shijingshan district will better accommodate the needs of foreign talent recruited for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as its organizing committee is based in the district, while the center in Tongzhou district will aid with the development of the area where much of the municipal government has been relocated, according to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau's Exit-Entry Administration Department.
The capital has already set up four such centers since March 2016.
Unlike previous facilities that received walk-in applicants, the new centers require foreigners to fill in online applications before making appointments to save time verifying documents.
"The new centers aim to further optimize the city's business environment and better serve foreign talent," said Che Yan, head of the department.
"Currently, there are about 3,000 foreign permanent residents and a larger floating foreign population in Tongzhou. Many of them said procedures for immigration services have been simplified in recent years," an officer at the Tongzhou center said on condition of anonymity.
A kindergarten teacher from the United Kingdom who wished to be referred as Jema was at the Tongzhou center on Wednesday to renew her work visa. "In the past, I had to go to the department's headquarters in downtown Beijing for visa services. Now ... by submitting applications online in advance I can receive my visa within just seven working days," she said.
China also stipulates harsher punishments for foreigners who illegally enter, live or work in China after the new Exit and Entry Administration Law took effect in July 2013. In 2018, China deported 69,000 foreigners, the administration said