Immigration to the People's Republic of China is the international movement of non-Chinese nationals in order to reside permanently in the country.

In the late 1970s, roughly 300,000 ethnic Chinese immigrated from Vietnam to China. Immigration has increased modestly since the opening up of the country and the liberalisation of the economy, mostly of people moving to the large cities and to Hong Kong. Many of the foreign nationals who immigrate to China are of Chinese ethnic heritage. China has also been the destination of illegal immigration, particularly along the China–North Korea border and in Guangzhou.

Legal immigration and permanent residency

In 2016, China issued 1,576 permanent residency cards. This was more than double what it had issued the previous year, but still roughly 750 times lower than the United States’ 1.2 million at the time.[1] By 2017, the number of foreigners holding Chinese Permament Residence finally passed the 10,000 mark.[2] More recent concrete numbers are not easily available, but since 2019 China has also been revamping the process for foreigners to apply for the "Chinese Green Card".[3]

Return of Overseas Chinese

The most significant immigration to China has been by the Overseas Chinese, who in the years since 1949 have been offered various enticements to return to their homeland. Several million may have done so since 1949. The largest influx came in 1978–79, when about 160,000 to 250,000 ethnic Chinese refugees fled Vietnam for southern China, as relations between the two countries worsened. Many of these refugees were settled in state farms on Hainan Island.[citation needed]

Illegal immigration

Main article: Illegal immigration to China

North Koreans

Further information: Koreans in China

Illegal immigrants from North Korea have moved across the China–North Korea border to seek higher wages and escape repression.[4]

Approximately 1,850 North Koreans fled their country in 2004, but China views them as illegal economic migrants rather than refugees and sends many of them back.[5] This is also due to pressure from North Korea.[citation needed] Many of those who succeed in reaching sanctuary in foreign diplomatic compounds or international schools have been allowed by China to depart for South Korea.

African migrants

Further information: Africans in Guangzhou § Immigration issues, and Illegal immigration to China § Guangzhou

There is a sizeable community of black Africans primarily concentrated in Guangzhou, China. Since the country's late 1990s economic boom, thousands of African traders and businesspeople predominantly from West Africa[6] migrated to the city of Guangzhou, creating an "Africatown" in the middle of the southern Chinese metropolis of approximately 10 km2. The primarily male population often set up local businesses and also engage in international trade.

According to official statistics of the PRC government, the number of Africans in Guangzhou has increased by 30-40% each year, and now form the largest black community in Asia.[7] However, as many have overstayed their visas, official figures may be understated. Estimates vary on the number of Africans living in Guangzhou: from 20,000 to over 200,000.[8][needs update] This has led to controversies and anger by the local community due to rumors of increasing numbers of crimes, including rape, fraud, robberies and drug dealing committed by Africans.[8] Huang Shiding of the Guangzhou Institute of Social Sciences estimates the number of permanent residents of foreign nationality (six months and above) to be around 50,000, of which some 20,000 are of African origin.[8]


At the end of 2015, China held 301,622 refugees, all but 600 from Vietnam.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "The US-China Tech Wars: China's Immigration Disadvantage". Archived from the original on 2020-01-03. Retrieved 2020-01-04.
  2. ^ "In one metric of diversity, China comes in dead last". Quartz. Retrieved 2022-03-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Backlash in China over draft rule on permanent residency for foreigners". South China morning Post. Retrieved 2022-03-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Illegal immigrants pour across border seeking work". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  5. ^ Jeffries, Ian (2013-06-17). North Korea: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments. Routledge. ISBN 9781134290338.
  6. ^ Schiller, Bill. "Big trouble in China's Chocolate City". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2010-08-24. Retrieved 2010-05-15.
  7. ^ Pan, Xiaobo (2008-01-23). "Chocolate City - Africans searching for the Chinese Dream". Southern Weekend.
  8. ^ a b c Ke Xuedong and Du An'na (2007-12-13). "广州黑人达20万 黑人强奸案直线上升(组图)". Shenzhen News Network. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
  9. ^ UNHCR The P.R. China Fact Sheet Archived 2017-10-09 at the Wayback Machine Dec, 2015