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‘Beijing’s Silicon Valley’ offers express green cards for foreign spouses of top Chinese talent

Zhongguancun relaxes permanent residency rules in quest for expertise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 8:10pm

Beijing is offering streamlined permanent residency for the foreign spouses and children of top-tier Chinese talent at the capital’s hi-tech hub as it tries to recruit skilled professionals.

The benefits for workers at the Zhongguancun Science Park – an area with ambitions to be “China’s Silicon Valley” – are similar to concessions already in place for foreign specialists.

The municipal government announced last week that Chinese citizens who worked in the park and qualified as “high-level talent” could apply for green cards for their foreign spouses and children through a streamlined scheme.

It comes six years after the central government first gave the go-ahead for such applications but until now the process was complicated.

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Under the new system, applications would be processed in Zhongguancun within 50 working days, instead of the usual 180 days, the park’s management committee said without specifying a start date.

Permanent residency has long been the exception rather than the rule for foreigners in China.

According to a 2011 national census, there were more than 600,000 citizens of other countries living on the mainland, but in the first decade after the green card scheme was launched in 2004, just 7,356 were issued the documents – most of them working in government departments or laboratories involved in “key national projects”.

China has eased restrictions in recent years, expanding the professional fields in the quest for expertise.

In 2016, the country extended eligibility for permanent residency to foreigners working in a greater range of areas.

Wang Xi, deputy director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau’s Exit and Entry Administration, said 662 foreigners filed permanent residency applications in Beijing last year, up from 598 in 2016 and triple the number lodged in 2015.

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Miao Lu, secretary general of the Beijing-based Centre for China and Globalisation, said the latest move would not have a big impact on the absolute number of applications but it was an important sign that China was working to lure global talent.

“While US President Donald Trump is curbing immigration, China is sending a signal to the world that it is making it more convenient for global talent, telling them that they can come to realise their dreams here,” Miao said.

She said other cities could follow Zhongguancun’s lead.

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“Various cities have been exploring new policies over the past years and they can influence each other,” Miao said.

Shanghai free-trade zone started streamlining applications from foreign workers in April.

Marketing executive Wang Lili, who has lived in Belgium for seven years and has a Belgian husband, said the new rule would be useful for her family, but there were other things to consider.

“It is attractive to me, but the top thing is whether my husband can find a better job in China than the one he has now. Also I’ll need to be sure we can afford a home,” Wang said.