In case you or your colleagues
- need to frequently travel to China on business, or
- plan to work in China, with the exact starting date not clear yet (but possibly with a decision on very short notice),
- and in both cases expect to qualify as a Category A expat under the new rules,
you should continue reading. If successfully obtained, R-visa may offer its holder more travel convenience, compared to current business (M-) visa. But given its substantial advantages outlined below, we expect that it will not be an easily obtainable immigration title.
The “R-visa”, i.e. the “rencai” or “talent” visa, is based on the 2013 Foreigner Entry / Exit Regulations. It is designed for “high-level skilled personnel required by China” ,as well as for“specialists urgently needed”.
On January 9, 2018 the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (“SAFEA” ) published the Implementation Measures for Foreign Talent Visa System (“外国人才签证制度实施办法”) jointly issued with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security already in late 2017. The significance is that for the first time, details on how R-visas work are now specified on the national level.
Key advantages of R-visa
Term - Among the current visa types, R-visa have the longest validity term of 5-10 years with multiple entry. R-visa holders may stay for up to 180 days for each entry.
Family - Spouse and underage children of the R-visa holder can also get visa with same validity term allowing for multiple entries.
Easy Upgrade - R-visa cannot replace the statutorily required work permit if the expatriate wants to work in China. But the process for an R-visa holder to get a work permit is much simplified compared to the normal process. After entering China with the R-visa, the expatriate may directly apply for the work permit online and may allegedly expect it to be issued within 3 working days. Whether this will work in practice, remains to be seen.
In case a staff is designated for future work in China, but would like to have more flexibility regarding the starting date, an R-visa can be an interesting option. If obtained, and once the actual starting date for the work is fixed, the upgrade/conversion to a work permit would then be easier and much quicker.
Free of charge - The issue of R-visa by the competent Chinese embassy or consulate is currently free of charge.
Quick issue - To issue an R-visa shall allegedly take only 2 working days.
Key preconditions for R-visa
Category A Expat - Currently, only expatriates qualified as Category A can be considered for an R-visa.
SAFEA Letter - The local subsidiary of SAFEA must have issued a Confirmation Letter for High Level Foreign Talents, upon application by a domestic inviting unit. Although the Letter is allegedly to be issued within 5 working days in qualified cases, we expect that the process to obtain this letter will be the most time consuming part of the overall process, especially if the foreigner’s Category A qualification is questioned. But in 2018, Shanghai, Beijing, Anhui, Hebei and Sichuan authorities had reportedly already issued the first such confirmation letters, mostly to expatriates selected into the governmental talent introduction programs.