On 28 November 2017, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) jointly issued the Implementation Measures for Foreign Talent Visas (Measures). The Measures provide the standards and procedures for applying the foreign talent visa (also known as “R visa”) which was initially defined under the PRC Administrative Regulations on Entry and Exit of Foreigners in 2013. The Measures first took effect in 9 pilot cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and have been implemented across China since 1 March 2018.
Eligibility for R visa
Generally speaking, R visas will only be issued to high-end foreign talents who are urgently needed for China’s economic and social development. They must also fall into Category A of the Standards for Classification of Foreigners Working in China (for Trial Implementation), which include those:
- eligible for national talent programs;
- who have acquired internationally recognised professional achievements. For example, winners of prestigious awards, academicians of national academies of science or engineering, senior management personnel of Fortune 500 companies, etc.;
- who are in strong market demand and within areas encouraged by Government. For example, senior management personnel employed by small foreign-owned enterprises that fall into the Encouraged Category under the Catalogue of Industries for Guiding Foreign Investment; and foreign talents whose annual income is not less than 6 times the average local income in the previous year.
- who have innovation and start up talent;
- who are under 40 years old with a post-doctorate degree;
- who are graded 85 points or more in the scoring system.
When an individual is issued with an R visa, the spouse and dependent children can also be granted multi-entry visas with the same period of validity. A dependent child is defined to be under 18 years old.
Advantages of R visa
Fewer restrictions during stay
Before the Measures came into force, foreigners could only apply for visas according to their purposes for entry into China. For example, an individual could apply for an M visa for commercial and trade activities, an F visa for exchanges and visits, and a Z visa for working. Additionally, once the visa was granted, the individual was only allowed to conduct activities within the scope of the visa that he or she held. The new R visa, however, does not specify the purpose for entry. Consequently, R visa holders may become involved in a variety of legal activities in China during the visa term, such as studying, traveling and attending meetings. In instances of long-term employment, however, an R visa holder must obtain an additional work permit.
Longer validity term
The R visa is a multi-entry visa and is valid for up to 180 days per entry over a validity term of 5 to 10 years. This is longer than an F or Z visa which has a maximum validity term of 5 years. The embassy or consulate will assess the credit record of the applicant and, provided there is a sound credit record, will normally grant an R visa with a validity period of 10 years.
Simpler process and other privileges
There are two steps for obtaining an R visa. First, the Chinese entity that is inviting foreign talents must apply for a Confirmation Letter of High-Level Talent. This is done by submitting application forms and supporting documents online. The Foreign Expert Bureau at the provincial level will issue the Confirmation Letter within 5 working days if the eligibility requirements are met. Second, the foreign talent must apply for the R visa at either the Chinese embassy or the consulate where he or she resides. The R visa application process at the embassy or consulate may be as short as 2 working days and is free of charge.
Foreigners who intend to establish a long-term employment relationship in China must obtain a work permit. Long-term is defined to be longer than 90 days. R visa holders are eligible to file their application online, via the simplified work permit application process, and will obtain their work permit in 3 working days.
As indicated by an officer of Beijing Foreign Expert Bureau, the Measures have been implemented well in Beijing and Confirmation Letters of High-Level Talents have been issued for 97 foreign talents. Most of them are invited by universities, research institutes, Fortune 500 companies, and technology innovation companies.
In the future, the authorities may from time to time adjust the standards of high level foreign talent according to China’s economic and social development and market demand. Therefore, companies and institutions intending to attract foreign talents are advised to keep an eye on the latest development of standards and process for talent visas.
Written by Karen Ip, Partner, and Martha Wang, Associate