Foreigners will find it easier to work in one of China’s largest cities after the Shanghai authorities released a series of policies last month to attract international talent as it looks to build a global center for scientific and technological innovation.
From November any foreigner will only have to apply for one permit instead of the current two permits. The application process is also to be simplified. The city authorities said that implementation details are still being developed along with the central government. Guidelines have been announced to launch a pilot scheme of unified work permits for several provinces and cities which include Shanghai.
Foreign workers will be classified into categories A, B and C — A for top talent, B for professional talent, C for unskilled workers or those working in the service industry. Simplifying the application process will mean some materials will no longer be needed. The practice will be applied to foreigners across the country based on experiences accumulated in the pilot province and cities when the trial ends next April. Current valid work permits are still valid to the date stated on the permit.
Shanghai last year handled 8,599 applications for foreign expert work permits and 120,933 for employment licenses for foreign employees, more than any other provinces and cities, said the government. Another new policy announced by Shanghai allows students who graduate from local universities without work experience to find employment in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone and the Shanghai Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone.
It is an upgraded version of a policy introduced last year to allow foreign postgraduates of local universities to work directly after graduation in the two zones without work experience. Previously, foreigners needed to have at least two years’ work experience to apply for work and residence permits in Shanghai. By August this year, 64 foreign postgraduates have obtained work permits under the policy, said the city government. Authorities said they are also considering expanding the policy to foreign graduates of universities outside of Shanghai.
Shanghai is not only trying to keep outstanding international talent at local universities, but also attract graduates from top universities abroad. Another new policy allows regional headquarters of transnational companies, investment companies and foreign-funded research and development centers, which are registered in the two trade zones, to employ graduates from leading foreign universities, with or without work experience. The new policy will also lower requirements for foreigners involved in scientific and technological innovation to obtain Shanghai Residence Card B, which enables holders to enjoy certain citizen benefits. The city will provide extra benefits for the card holders, such as exemption from housing property tax for their only residence, allowing their children aged from 3 to 12 to study at local schools and participation in a local housing provident fund, said the government.
Shanghai has been reforming its talent recruitment policies in recent years. Last year, it introduced 20 regulations, including some to help foreign workers to apply and renew required certificates conveniently. This has benefited many people since the changes took effect last year. One eye-catching policy was to lower the threshold for permanent residence applicants, allowing expats, who have worked in the city for four consecutive years and have lived in China for at least 6 months a year to apply for the residence permit providing their salaries met required levels.
A total of 96 foreign expats have been issued such 5-year visas, including 27 older than 60. Most expats need to renew their residence permits once a year, but from last year, they can have their permits renewed for 5 years after two previous renewals. More than 1,800 qualifying expats have applied for the 5-year permits.