Foreign talents visa or the Chinese green card?
Julian Mintzis, an American and the CEO of consulting company Panda Eagle Group, has been in Beijing for nine years.
Mintzis said there are three ways one can obtain the Chinese green card - marriage, investment and work. One major difference is the rights given. The foreign talents visa is still a type of working visa, whereas the green card subjects the person to tax on worldwide assets and income in China; and it is supposed to be considered an official form of identification in China. In addition, the person is classified as a permanent resident, so he or she may lose some benefits back home.
"Some foreigners are not interested in the Chinese green card partly because it may have an impact on their financial planning and benefits back home," he said.
Atish Ghosh, a senior marketing executive from India, who has been in China for 18 years, thinks that the foreign talents visa may not be an ideal fit for him. "It is only valid for a 180-day stay each time, which does not really work for me because at times I am here for longer stretches."
He thinks that getting the Chinese permanent residency makes more sense for someone like him who spends a good part of his life here and has developed a deep connection with the country. Yet the application process is quite long and tedious, therefore it is not on his radar at the moment.
Loveland also believes that the current Chinese green card system is somewhat a bragging right as opposed to a true solution for long-term employment. It provides some security for foreigners who have decided to live in China for the rest of their lives. For example, it is a good choice for a foreigner who has married a Chinese national. Beyond that, the other visa categories are effective as long as the foreigner is legally employed.
"Given that more foreigners will want to remain in China, I wouldn't be surprised if the government does make some amendments to the green card program to open it up a bit more. The current process [of the foreign talents visa] is really only targeting high-end talent," said Loveland.
How to attract and retain talent?
Eric Liu, the recruitment consultant at Foreign HR, a recruitment firm for foreigners in China, thinks that a soft environment including visa policies only plays a supplementary role.
The biggest attractions are the job opportunities the employer can provide, for example, pay, scientific research funds and the teams.
"Generally, China is very welcoming to foreign high-end talents and tightening control on lower-end talents. We have established very mature assessment criteria for high-skilled foreigners. Yet, there is an imbalance of supply and demand in the market," said Liu.
He said there are still many companies or organizations that cannot get the talents they need, mainly due to competitive pay, their international reputation and living conditions.
Mintzis thinks if the government clearly explains the qualifications and application process, China could receive some very high-quality talents.
The new changes to the work permit and visa policy, which were significantly changed last April, focus on high-quality candidates. However, there are many factors which deter these kinds of people from being interested in working in China, such as environmental concerns, the cost of international education, internet quality and connectivity and wages. In this situation, the demand is high but the supply is low, he said.
"On the other hand, the opposite is true where the supply is high and demand is low in lower-end jobs such as teaching English. These kinds of people are just looking to gain some experience in China and not build a career here, unlike their predecessors who came to China between five and 15 years ago."
Wang thinks that a big problem with the visa and permits policies is that we are "waiting for the windfalls."
We should take a more proactive approach. We always wait for the applications for a Chinese green card after candidates come to and reside in China for a certain time rather than putting in the applications before they come to China, he said.
"The foreign talents visa is good, but I think the key to attract and retain foreign talents is the shift from subsequent endorsement to the issuance of a Chinese green card in advance. The candidates in China are stable and limited, but there are many foreign talents abroad who want to come to China but are not qualified for a Chinese green card. If they can get it before coming to China, it will be one of the biggest attractions," said Wang.