China is planning a new law that will shorten the minimum stay for foreigners who come to China to work to 90 days while the period of validity for a residence permit will range from 180 days to five years.

The draft law is being discussed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the country's top legislature.

It stipulates that foreigners should obtain valid identity documents when they are working in China, and any unit or personnel should not employ foreigners without valid certificates.

For foreigners holding visas with a maximum stay of 180 days, the holders should hand in documents to government departments above county-level to apply for a longer stay.

The draft law also allows local governments of bordering regions to promulgate exit and entry regulations in line with agreements signed between China and neighboring countries.

The draft law was designed with the aim of curbing the illegal entry, stay and employment of foreigners and stipulating harsher punishments for people who enter or exit the country illegally.

Since foreigners need to go through screening again when they want their residency permits renewed, the new rule will raise the frequency of checks, legislators said.

Foreigners need a work permit to be legally hired, and certain groups, such as those entering on an L or F visa - referring, respectively, to students staying for less than six months for cultural-exchange programs and tourists - are not allowed to be employed in China. Foreign students are also not allowed to work here.

As of the end of last year, there were about 220,000 foreigners legally working on China's mainland, about 37 percent of the legal foreign residents. The number of foreign visitors to the country has been increasing by 10 percent each year since 2000.

The Ministry of Public Security said they seized more than 20,000 foreigners across the country last year who were illegally staying or working.

They were fined or deported depending on the seriousness of the offense.

Many of the illegal foreign workers were found in the language training, domestic housekeeping and showbiz sectors, the ministry said.

Illegal workers usually entered on a student or short-visit visa, it said.

The capital city of Beijing is currently cracking down on foreigners working illegally in China or staying in violation of visa rules.

Police say the number of illegal foreign workers in the country has been growing substantially over the past few years.

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