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Visas eased for high-skilled foreign workers

Writer:   | Editor: Lily A  | From:  | Updated: 2018-01-05

CHINA announced easier visa permits for foreign professionals and high-skilled workers Thursday, as part of its effort to bridge the talent gap.

Applicants will be expanded to those who qualify as high-end talents in the Categories of Foreigners Working in China, including scientists, entrepreneurs and leading figures in technology-intensive sectors, according to new rules unveiled by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.

The expiration date of the visa could be extended to five to 10 years after issuance, with multiple entries and 180-day stays for a single entry, the administration said, adding that the categories could be adjusted based on the country’s changing demand for talent.

Spouses and minor children of the applicants could gain the same visa, as early as the day after filing applications. Foreign talents could get their confirmation of qualification in five working days. All of the applicants are given a visa fee waiver, even for urgent applications.

China is in the middle of its biggest ever influx of foreign-educated professionals.

Premier Li Keqiang said in September 2017 that as the world’s largest developing country, China was at a critical stage of economic restructuring and upgrading, adding that “we should not only make use of Chinese talent resources and market space, but also adopt a more open policy for foreign experts.”

China has been seeking to ease visa rules for foreigners, particularly those linked to the tightly controlled permanent residency or “green card” program, in recent years to attract the best brains to help bolster its slowing economy.

A new pilot program unveiled by the Ministry of Public Security in March last year allows anyone who has been employed in China for at least two consecutive years to apply for a five-year work permit.

Earlier, most foreign employees had to apply for a new work permit every year, even when hired on multiyear contracts.

Those who have worked in China for more than four consecutive years while residing in the country for at least six months of each year, and who meet a certain salary and income tax threshold, are now eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit.

The ministry has also moved to decentralize the Chinese green card system, allowing free trade zone management to process green card applications from top international talents. Earlier, this fell within the purview of the provincial and regional governments.

Under the new rules, foreign students graduating from Chinese universities can apply for a residence permit valid for two to five years. This would allow them to gain work experience or launch their own startups.

Foreign students graduating from universities outside China can also apply for a similar visa to gain work experience through a Chinese employer registered with the ministry.

The number of foreign students enrolled in Chinese universities jumped 11.4 percent in 2016 to 443,000, according to the Education Ministry.(SD-Xinhua)