Shanghai is to issue visas on arrival to high-level foreign workers and those bringing entrepreneurial skills to the city to attract top talent for its mission to become a global center of scientific and technological innovation.
Foreigners with either an invitation from a licensed high-tech enterprise, a talent certificate awarded by the Shanghai human resources authority, or an endorsement from a high-tech business incubator will no longer need to leave the country to obtain a work visa.
Sheng Xiaobo, a visa management official from the Shanghai Entry-Exit Administration Bureau, said at a news conference on Thursday that instead, they will be allowed to apply for work visas at Shanghai's ports of entry as long as they have a work permit or their business plan.
Their employers will be encouraged to hand in documentation to apply for their visas five days in advance to ensure a more efficient entry at the port.
This change, unique in China, is in response to President Xi Jinping's call in May for Shanghai to develop as a center of scientific and technological innovation with global influence.
The new regulations cover the criteria for high-level foreign workers, easier ways for their visas to be issued, and a lower threshold to apply for permanent residency in China.
It will be the first time that high-level foreign workers are to be identified by their income and tax payments rather than job titles.
Those with an annual income of 600,000 yuan ($96,700) or above and who have paid 120,000 yuan as individual income tax per year for four consecutive years are able to apply for a permanent residence permit.
Under the original provisions, only foreigners working as at least vice-general managers or holding professional titles as associate researchers or above were qualified to apply.
Moreover, the amount of time these foreigners need to have lived in China to apply for permanent residence has been eased. Compared to the original provision, which required a duration of no shorter than three years within a four-year work experience, the new policy requires a period of no less than six months each year.
The highlight in the new policy, say experts, is more compact and transparent channels for foreigners to apply for visas and residence permits so that more high-level talent from around the world will be attracted and retained.
"Shanghai needs high-tech talent to transform its growth mode and maintain a rapid economic development," said Sun Yongqiang, vice-chairman of Shanghai Pudong New Area Business Council.
"On the other hand, these breakthroughs will help render a promising future for international technology innovators in the city," Sun said.