As China’s larger cities compete in the global economic recession to attract fresh foreign investment, Shanghai launched a pilot program on July 1 that could ease visa requirements for some foreign nationals. Under the program, qualified foreign executives and professionals whose employers are invested or registered in the city’s Pudong District will be able to receive residence and work permits with validity of up to five years, along with their dependants.

Residence applicability and duration depend upon the status of a foreign executive or professional’s employer and his or her long-term need to reside in Shanghai. The Shanghai residence permit is valid like a visa for entry and exit purposes and travel in China. In addition, an “F” visa (business visitor visa) of extended length is available for those who do not need to reside in Shanghai long-term.

“Highly qualified foreign talents, special talents and renowned individuals” may apply for residence permits with validity of between three and five years. The Shanghai Municipal Government's Foreign Affairs Office is drafting detailed guidelines on who qualifies. Similarly, favorable measures are available for renowned foreign nationals, foreign academic leaders, high-tech foreign professionals, and foreign professionals at multinational regional headquarters, research and development (R&D) centers, and investment companies. Foreign executives and professionals of enterprises with registered capital exceeding $3 million are also qualified.

Separately, authorities have also announced a special policy to facilitate the entry of expatriates seeking employment related to World Expo 2010.

Renowned foreign nationals

Foreign nationals who have been recognized as “Honorary Citizens” of Shanghai may apply for five-year residence permits. Likewise, foreigners who have been conferred a “Magnolia Award” from the city government may apply for five-year residence permits. Those who are “highly qualified foreign special talents and renowned individuals” are similarly qualified. This policy exclusively targets foreign nationals who have contributed significantly to Shanghai’s economic and social development.

Shanghai Municipal Government’s Foreign Affairs Office is drafting detailed guidelines on who is qualified.

Foreign academic leaders

Foreign academic leaders employed by national, ministerial or Shanghai city-level research institutes or universities may apply for residence permits with validity of between three and five years. In the past, permits for such individuals were only available with four years’ validity.

High-tech foreign professionals

Foreign legal representatives, general managers, deputy general managers and finance directors in high-tech companies, foreign-invested companies that utilize advanced technology or those that sell export products may apply for residence permits with validity of between three and five years. Previously, such professionals could only apply for permits with one to two years’ validity.

Foreign professionals at multinational regional headquarters, R&D centers and investment companies

Foreign legal representatives, senior managers and scientific research personnel at multinational companies’ local headquarters, R&D centers or investment companies may apply for residence permits with validity of between three and five years. In the past, such professionals could only apply for permits with one to three years’ validity.

Foreign professionals of enterprises with registered capital exceeding $3 million

Foreign legal representatives, general managers, deputy general managers, finance directors, senior managers and individual investors in enterprises (foreign or domestic) with registered capital of more than $3 million may apply for residence permits with validity of between three and five years. Previously, permits were only available to such foreign professionals of enterprises with registered capital requirement of more than $30 million.

Frequent business travelers

If a foreign national is qualified under any of the above categories but does not need to work or reside in Shanghai long-term, and he/she is also qualified for an F visa, he/she may apply for the multiple-entry F visa with validity of two to five years. Normally, if a foreign national is qualified for an F visa, he/she may only apply for a one-year, multiple-entry F visa.

Online application for residence permit extension

It is now possible to apply online for extension of a residence permit. After online filing is accepted, the applicant can check his/her approval status. Once notice of approval is posted online, the applicant may, by himself/herself or through the agency of another, visit the Shanghai Exit-Entry Administration, on the date stated on the notice, to have the new residence permit affixed to his/her passport.

Possible adoption throughout Shanghai

There is a possibility that the above measures can be extended beyond Pudong to the entire city of Shanghai by 2010.

Policy on expatriates seeking World Expo-related employment in Shanghai

Separately, as World Expo 2010 approaches, Shanghai’s authorities have announced a special policy to assist expatriates seeking Expo-related employment. A new Employment Registration Form for Foreign Employees in China (for Expo 2010) will be used.

The form and a regular work visa/permit application will need to be endorsed and stamped by the Bureau of the Shanghai World Expo Coordination (BSWEC). As such, work visa applications can be simplified into two applications: a work permit application and a residence permit application. (Regular work visas involve four applications.) That means expatriates who are endorsed and receive a stamp from BSWEC can enter China on a business or tourist visa; they will not need to exit the country to obtain a work visa. While in China, they can then directly apply for a work permit/residence permit in Shanghai without exiting China to convert the visa status.

Detailed rules and regulations are expected in the near future.