Ethnic Chinese living overseas will be able to apply for a Chinese visa starting next month that will be valid for multiple entries over five years, the Ministry of Public Security said on Monday.
Under current rules, those in this group can apply for a visa with a maximum period of one year.
The ministry also will prolong the validity period of residency permits for the group from three years to five years, the ministry said.
The move aims to streamline the process for overseas Chinese to "return home" and to make it easy for them to visit families, conduct business and cultural exchanges and run personal errands in China, the ministry said.
Qu Yunhai, director of the ministry"s Exit and Entry Administration Bureau, said at a news conference that the move was an upgrade of similar measures issued in recent years to encourage overseas Chinese "to participate in China"s economic development".
"Such rules have played a positive role in serving China"s social and economic development and attracting talent with innovative and entrepreneurial spirit," he said, adding that the upgrade will provide a "more convenient and pragmatic environment" for the group.
The director said the extension has been implemented in Shanghai and Guangdong province, where demand for such visas runs high. The ministry will now expand the practice nationwide.
Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, an independent, nonprofit think tank in Beijing, said the move will make China a more appealing place for overseas Chinese.
"When countries in Europe and the United States have issued 10-year visas to eligible Chinese, it is unreasonable for China to set the hurdle for overseas Chinese," he said.
In addition to the visa extension, the ministry also made public several policies related to cross-border travel, including enabling Chinese citizens to apply for visas anywhere within a province and provide photo services for visa applicants free of charge.
According to the ministry, the number of cross-border visits surpassed 590 million in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 4.7 percent. Of those, some 290 million were made by Chinese mainland residents.
Li Lei contributed to this story.