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China economy

China names Microsoft executive as first ‘high-end’ foreigner

Human resources director can now apply for 10-year multiple entry visa, state media reports

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 11:52am

The first recipient of a “Certificate for Foreign High-end Talent” in Beijing has been identified as an executive from US technology giant Microsoft.

Saju George, the company’s human resources director for Greater Asia, Middle East and Africa, was presented with his certificate – which qualifies him to apply for a 10-year multiple-entry visa – on Tuesday, China’s Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said on its website.

China introduced the certificate scheme in a bid to attract more foreigners to visit for business purposes.

The next two recipients after George were American professors Chong Gu from Purdue University in Indiana and Lucio Soibelman from the University of Southern California, the report said.

Several other executive from multinational companies – including Joe Kaeser, president and chief executive of Siemens – had applied for one of the new certificates, it said.

The document is a prerequisite for anyone applying for a new five- or 10-year multiple-entry visa, which entitles the holder to stay in the country for up to 180 days at a time.

Beijing is one of nine cities and provinces that are trialling the new scheme. Authorities in the capital said they would process all applications for the high-end talent certificates within five days. There are no fees for either the certificate or the visa.

Could you be a ‘high-end’ foreigner? China offers 10-year free visa to top talent

An unnamed official from the Beijing bureau of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs said the next step was to “rigorously promote this new type of visa to enhance its popularity and influence”.

According to government guidelines, as well as corporate executives and professors, “high-end” foreigners are defined as Nobel Prize winners, chief editors of Chinese state media, top sportspeople and coaches, and professionals – especially in the fields of science and IT – earning at least six times China’s average annual wage, which in Beijing in 2016 was 92,477 yuan (US$14,270), according to official figures.

Most foreigners working in China have to renew their visas every one or two years.

Transiting in Beijing? You can now stay visa-free for six days

The country’s policy on visas has long been criticised by foreign academics and activists.

Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, said last month that US scholars who had been critical of China or had links to sensitive subjects were almost always refused entry.

“Sometimes they receive visas and sometimes they do not,” she wrote in a blog post. “Others are made to wait until the last minute, or are hauled in for discussions at the embassy or local consulate.”