Foreign Workers in China – A Quick Overview
China’s speedy economic growth and rising status as a tech innovation center makes it an attractive destination for many international entrepreneurs and experienced workers. Over 900,000 foreigners worked in China as of the end of 2018. Shanghai had the highest concentration of highly skilled foreign employees, accounting for 23.7% of the national total. However, attracting and retaining overseas talent has notoriously been difficult for Chinese authorities, mostly due to administrative red tape and lengthy visa application processes.
In recent years, Beijing has ramped up efforts to expand its talent pool with the introduction of preferential policies for the obtention of permanent residency. For instance, 1881 foreigners were granted permanent resident cards between April and June 2018 alone – about the same amount delivered over the entire 2017.
In January 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified eligibility criteria for the R visa, a visa category specifically targeting high-caliber foreign professionals. Individuals whose skills are urgently need on the mainland can obtain within 5 days a Certificate for Foreign High-end Talent, which allows them to stay in China for 5 to 10 years. in January 2018. Other similar preferential measures were introduced for ethnic Chinese. Under the old scheme, overseas Chinese could only obtain 1-year multiple entry visas. Since February 2018, the visa validity has been extended to 5 years, a major incentive for ethnic Chinese to come live and work in China.
4 Key Priorities
The new relaxed policies will be rolled out nationwide on August 1st, 2019 with a multi-faceted purpose:
- Expand the pool of foreign residents eligible for permanent residency
- Relax requirements for long-term visas and residence permits obtention
- Facilitate the integration of foreign talents in China and provide guidance to young graduates and entrepreneurs
- Improve immigration services facilities. Explore the establishment of new integrated centers for foreigners
12 Preferential Immigration Measures
Let’s have a closer look at the 12 new preferential immigration measures.
- High-caliber foreign talents who have made outstanding contributions while in China or whose skills are in high demand locally can apply for an official recommendation letter at the State Administrative Department or provincial-level government units. With this letter in hand, they will be able to apply for a permanent residence card at the Public Security Bureau Exit-Entry Management Bureau.
- Foreigners who meet all the following criteria will now be eligible for permanent residency:
-have been working in China for 4 consecutive years (no less than 6 months each year)
-have an annual salary at least 6 times above the average local salary and is paid annually
-pay no less than 20% of their income in Individual Income Taxes (IIT)
As of July 2019, the average monthly salary in Shanghai was RMB 10,662. In other words, foreign professionals would need to have a salary equal or above RMB 63,972 to be able to benefit from the preferential policy.
- Overseas Chinese working in China who graduated with a PhD or have worked in a key state development zone for 4 consecutive years (staying a minimum of 6 months each year) may apply for permanent residence in China.
- The following categories of people can apply for a port visa, also known as landing visa:-Foreign experts and scholars invited by key domestic academic institutions, research institutes and well-known enterprises.
-Overseas senior managers and technical professionals identified by competent authorities at the municipal and provincial level, as well as departments responsible for technical innovation.The applicant will need to submit additional documents after entry to apply for 5-year multiple entry visas or residence permits.
- Foreign talents and startup staff working in key domestic development industries may apply for a 5-year residence permit by providing their work permit information and official company invitation letter to immigration authorities.
- Foreigners who’ve made outstanding contributions while in China and those with highly sought-after skills may recommend fellow foreign colleagues and research assistants that took part in a project they led. Recommended individuals may apply for extended 5-year residence permits.
- If a foreigner employed by a company in China has completed the work permit procedure but has not had time to apply for a work visa may apply for a residence permit within China. Foreign individuals who have held a residence permit for over one year and didn’t break any regulations, may obtain a 5-year residence permit on their third application.
- Foreign talents working in key domestic academic institutions, research institutes and well-known businesses, may engage in part-time entrepreneurship activities after gaining approval from their supervisor and local Public Security Bureau Exit-Entry Management Bureau.
- Top international students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or above in selected Chinese universities can enjoy preferential visa policies. Specifically, they can apply for a 2 to 5-year residence permit if they decide to start their own business in China upon graduation.
- Foreign students who graduated from internationally renowned universities and who come to China for entrepreneurship within 2 years of their graduation may apply for a 2-year residence permit.
- Foreign students from overseas universities invited by well-known domestic enterprises and institutions to complete internships may apply for a 1-year visa allowing them to intern in China. Depending on intergovernmental agreements provisions, those foreign students may be eligible to apply for a work-related residence permit upon the completion of their internships.
- Chinese authorities will explore the establishment of immigration service centers in areas where foreigners are concentrated. Those will act as one-stop destination for overseas talent looking for job counseling, legal assistance, language and culture classes and more.
Chinese immigration authorities issued over 133,000 visas and permanent residence permits to foreign entrepreneurs, investors, technology and business executives in the past 4 years according to Chen Bin, head of foreign talent management department with the State Immigration Administration. The newly-announced measures will undoubtedly see this number rise at a faster pace and increase retention rates among expat workers in China.