Positive feedback for new talent policies
Shanghai’s swath of new policies aimed at luring overseas talent to transform the city into a global innovation center for science and technology have been well received by foreign companies and individuals.
Under the new rules, which include the loosening of visa regulations and requirements for permanent residency, foreign workers who have an invitation or endorsement from a high-tech company will no longer need to leave China before they can obtain their work visa.
Lyu Songtao, chairman of Shanghai Green Valley Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd, was delighted with the changes, saying: “It is great news for our company. Being able to hire foreign experts will help us learn more about the advanced technology used in Western countries as we create our own medical products for patients.”
Those not in the high-tech sector stand to benefit too — foreigners who have documents to prove that a company in Shanghai has agreed to hire them can immediately apply for a one-year work permit upon entering the city.
Hans von Meister of the United States was one person who lauded the new regulations regarding work visas.
“The benefit of not having to leave the country to transfer your visa after visiting or studying in China will encourage more companies to invest in hiring young talent that perhaps they wouldn’t have before,” said the 27-year-old, who has resided in Shanghai for about six years.
“With the ease of transfer from non-working to working visas, I foresee an increase in the number of young, working expats in China. More local Chinese companies will be encouraged to hire foreign employees for their expansions into international markets,” added von Meister, who is the COO at LearningLeaders, a Shanghai-based academy that focuses on developing debating and public speaking skills.
The new measures will also have a positive impact on the talent pool at the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) as there are now fewer employment restrictions — international students who have obtained their master’s degrees in local universities are now eligible to get their work permits directly if they manage to find jobs in the FTZ.
According to the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, there were more than 53,800 international students studying in Shanghai in 2013, a 30 percent increase from 2010.
“The policy will encourage employers to fill the positions with better fitted talents, but it won’t become the main attraction for overseas job applicants, who eye the business opportunities here instead,” said Pete Chia, managing director of BRecruit China, a leading recruitment service provider in Asia.
“These international students should provide added value to the Chinese job market. In other words, they should be armed with skill sets that can’t be found among the local talent,” said Chia.
But apart from attracting talent, the Shanghai government also has an eye on retaining the best minds that currently reside in the city. High-level talents who have permanent jobs in Shanghai will be given priority when applying for a foreign expert permit that valid for two to five years.
The administrative procedures have also been simplified and these talents can even apply for permanent residency after working for three years, with recommendations from their companies. The residency duration has also been extended from five to 10 years.
Alternatively, foreigners who have worked in Shanghai for four consecutive years, drawing an annual income of 600,000 yuan ($96,700) and paying 120,000 yuan in individual income tax per year, can now apply for a China green card if they have resided in the city for more than six months in each of those years. Before the new regulations took effect, foreigners were identified by their job titles and only those who
is were senior executives in their respective industries were eligible for permanent residency.
“These beneficial policies will enable us to attract younger talents who have innovative ideas as well as experienced senior professionals from overseas,” said Jan Anne Schelling, the vice president of human resources at DSM China, a Dutch material science company.
Schelling, who has lived in Shanghai for eight years, also noted that there is an increasing number of people who are entering the city to look for jobs on their own accord, compared with the past when most foreigners were posted here by their companies. Their expectations have changed too, as Schelling said: “They used to put salary as the top priority but the job applicants today are focusing more on what they can learn from the job. They’re looking for more potential opportunities.”
Other objectives of the new regulations include the fostering of entrepreneurship among the talents here in Shanghai. The local government wants to encourage more young foreign graduates to start their own businesses, and have paved the way for this to happen by allowing those with a bachelor degree from overseas institutions to apply for a two-year residence permit if they are starting their businesses in the FTZ.
Foreigners who are planning to make investments or launch companies in Shanghai can also apply for a private business visa — supported by the relevant documents such as a business proposal and the approval of the investment — before they arrive. This group of individuals can then apply for a private business permit upon arrival in Shanghai.
“It is not that difficult to start a company here as the city is full of opportunities and resources to encourage start- ups to expand businesses at a rapid speed,” said 26-year-old Tommy Hendriks, a Dutch national who graduated from Fudan University last year and is now the CEO of The Mansion, a hub for musicians, artists and creative people alike.
Hendriks, whose job involves bringing foreign music festivals to China, holding DJ lessons for beginners and taking charge of the music stage at the Midi Festival every year, adds that he is confident that the new policies will lead to a growth of entrepreneurs like himself.
According to Zhou Haiyang, director of Shanghai Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, a more detailed list of rules and guidelines will be released throughout the year.
“Shanghai will be the pioneer in achieving a breakthrough in the implementation of even more open and effective policies in our bid to recruit more talents from abroad and offer them a convenient life here,” Zhou said.
Alasdair Jelfs, the managing director at Merck Chemicals China, echoed this sentiment, saying that this current model of talent attraction should be copied in other Chinese cities.
“We’ve just recruited a foreign PhD graduate directly from Shanghai University, thanks to the loosening of the employment policies for international graduates,” said Jelfs.
“I think any change in the regulations, which makes the administrative process of hiring expats more convenient, is definitely an advantage.”