Shanghai begins issuing ‘Foreign Talent’ visas

12 Mar 18



What is the change? Two months after central authorities issued guidelines easing immigration procedures for top international talent, the Shanghai Expert Bureau has confirmed that Foreign Talent (R) visas are now available to qualifying high-level foreign professionals seeking to live and work in Shanghai.

What does the change mean? The visas offer several benefits, including expedited work-permit processing and waiving of government processing fees. The visas are valid for five to 10 years for multiple entries of 180 days per visit. R visa holders may apply for work and residence permits directly with Shanghai authorities.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Foreign Talent (R) visas.
  • Who is affected: High-level foreign professionals.
  • Impact on processing times: R visas are processed in two business days from the date of filing with the embassy or consulate. R visa holders who want to convert to a work permit may apply directly in Shanghai and expect the work-permit card to be processed in three business days.
  • Business impact: The visas allow top-level foreign experts to benefit from faster processing, longer visits, dependent visas for family members, and the opportunity to convert to work permits through a streamlined process.

Background: Only those qualifying as high-level professionals – such as prestigious award recipients or nominees, renowned experts or scholars with outstanding talent, outstanding professionals within an organization, or others with special talents or possessing skills deemed to be in shortage in Shanghai – are eligible to apply. Applicants should obtain an approval letter from the Shanghai Expert Bureau before applying for the R visa at a Chinese embassy or consulate.

Applicants who want to work in Shanghai may convert in-country to a work permit and then a residence permit. Once the residence permit is issued, the R visa automatically becomes invalid. For applicants who plan to use a guarantee letter to support their application for an approval letter, the sponsoring Chinese entity must be on the Shanghai Expert Bureau’s list of companies deemed to be high-tech or otherwise qualified to use the guarantee letter. The guarantee letter must state that the applicant’s annual salary will exceed 600,000 renminbi (about US$95,000) and annual income tax will exceed 120,000 renminbi.

In January, three central authorities – the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security – issued joint guidance easing the procedures for R visas with the aim of attracting “top scientists, international enterprises and other talents with specific high-level skills that are in need in the development of the economy and society of China.”

BAL Analysis: The Foreign Talent visas offer significant flexibility and options for top-notch foreign talent in Shanghai. Other cities are expected to follow with their own procedures in coming months.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in China. For additional information, please contact

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