Care for a Chinese Green Card? China Is Trying to Attract Foreign Talent

Foreigners with long-term work or business interests in China will be happy to know that applying for visas and residence permits just got a lot easier.

As of July 1, the Chinese government has significantly relaxed requirements for foreign workers to apply for permanent residency, which was previously only open to senior executives at tech firms or professors at academic institutions.

Other changes will make applying for work visas easier and will no longer require foreigners to leave the country to upgrade their visa status. The new policies for visas and residence permits will most benefit foreign experts, high earners, and exchange student graduates, and reflect the Chinese government’s desire to retain foreign talent in the country.

Details of the new policies are outlined below.

Permanent Residence Permit

Foreigners who have worked in Shanghai for more than four consecutive years (residing in China for at least six months out of each year), have an annual salary of over RMB600,000 and pay at least RMB120,000 in income taxes are now eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit.

A new ‘R’ (standing for ‘rencai’ 人才, or human talent) residence permit valid for five years is now available for foreign employees identified as professionals with special skills by the company’s human resources department. Foreign professionals who sign a contract to work at one of the 3,500 firms ratified by the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission (and that are listed on their official website) are also eligible to apply for the R residence permit.

After working for three years with the company that sponsored their ‘R’ permit, foreign professionals are eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit. The processing time now takes only 90 days.

‘Chuangye’ Residence Permit

International students who graduate from a Chinese institution of higher education are eligible to apply for a 创业 “chuangye” (start-up) private affairs residence permit valid for two years. This will enable them to apply for a work permit.

Previously, international students were required to have at least two years of prior work experience before being eligible for a work permit in China.  Students can use this residence permit to legally intern and participate in start-up activities.

Relaxed Requirements for Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone

Requirements for visa and residence permits applications have also been relaxed for foreigners working within the expanded area of the Shanghai’s free trade zone (i.e., Lujiazui financial district, Jinqiao development zone and Zhangjiang hi-tech park).

Foreigners in upper management positions can apply for a private affairs residence permit of up to five years, and those who have worked for three consecutive years can apply for a two-year work residence permit.

In addition, foreigners invited by the free trade zone to participate in trade and commerce partnership and exchange can present the official invitation letter from the free trade zone committee and other relevant materials to apply for a six-month multiple entry F (visitor) visa valid for between two to five years.

Foreign Housekeepers

Foreigners who hold a permanent residence permit or who are professionals holding a work permit and a residence permit are now permitted to apply for work permits to hire up to one foreign housekeeper per household. 

Previously, only Chinese were legally allowed to be employed as housekeepers in China. Foreign housekeepers should apply for a private affairs residence permit, and they need to provide their work contract, a statement of personal finances, evidence of life insurance and a health certificate at the time of their application.

Free Trade Zone Employees

Port visas can now be issued for work-related purposes for those who will be working within the expanded area of the Shanghai FTZ. Companies and individuals that work within the expanded area of the FTZ can directly go to the exit and entry bureau in Pudong to manage exit and entry affairs and to make reservations in advance for port visas.

By the end of September, companies will be allowed to use an electronic platform to issue invitations to qualified foreign employees to receive a port visa on arrival. After the foreigners arrive in Shanghai, they can directly apply for port visas in the arrivals hall in Hongqiao and Pudong Airport, and the visas will under normal circumstances be processed within two hours’ time.

Port visas are only valid for 30 days; within this time period, foreigners must go to the exit and entry bureau to change their visa status.

Specialized professionals who come to China without their R visa can use a certificate issued by the talent management department or a company certified by the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission to apply for a port visa, which can later be upgraded to an R visa at the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security.

Domestic Upgrade of Visas

Foreigners in Shanghai who enter China with a non-work visa and later find employment will now be able to change their visa status by presenting relevant documents directly at either of Shanghai’s airports. Previously, foreigners could only upgrade their visa status by leaving the country.

Changes to Work Visa Applications in Shanghai

There are new policies to facilitate visa processing for foreigners coming to Shanghai to work. Specifically:

For foreigners outside of China that hold a certificate verifying their employment, they can go to Shanghai’s bureau for port visas to apply for a work visa to enter the country.

For foreigners already in Shanghai that hold a certificate verifying their employment, they can first go to the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security to apply for a residence permit for work purposes for less than a year, and then later apply to upgrade this to the appropriate work or professional residence permit.

For foreigners who plan to come to Shanghai for investment or to engage in entrepreneurship and who do not have enough time to prepare a certificate verifying their employment, they can prepare documents like an investment certificate, business proposal, and a certificate verifying their source of income to use to apply for a private affairs visa at the Shanghai Port Visa Management Department (上海口岸签证机关).

After entering the country, they can bring relevant documents to the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security to apply for a “startup” private affairs residence permit.

Changes to Short-Term Visas and Permits Applications

Policies have changed for foreigners applying for a visa and residence permit for a period of less than one year. Previously, foreign employees applying for their comparatively long-term visa and residence permit (e.g., six months) were required to submit an official letter from the company. Now, however, foreigners who apply for a visa and residence permit valid for less than a year will only need to submit an official letter issued by the Shanghai FTZ.

In addition to making changes to policies for visa and residence permit applications, the government is taking steps to make the processing of applications more efficient. More counters will be installed in the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security in Pudong, and 12 or 13 new foreign service centers will be opened in addition to the 33 centers currently in operation.

About the Author

Dezan Shira & Associates, a specialist foreign direct investment practice that provides advisory services to multinationals investing in emerging Asia. This article was first published in China Briefing and was reedited for clarity and conciseness. For further details or to contact the firm, please visit www.dezshira.com.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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