What is the change? Guangdong authorities have relaxed immigration rules, making it easier for foreign nationals to live and work in Guangdong Province and the Guangdong Free Trade Zone.

What does the change mean? The reforms are intended to promote Guangdong as an innovation and tech hub following similar successful immigration initiatives in Beijing and Shanghai.

The changes are summarized as follows:

Guangdong Free Trade Zone

  • Senior professionals who are recommended by the Guangdong Free Trade Office will be eligible to apply for permanent residence permits along with spouses and children under 18. Processing times will be reduced from 180 business days to 90 days.
  • Entrepreneurial and tech talent of an entrepreneur team, who are qualified by the Free Trade Zone talent evaluation system, will be eligible to apply for permanent residence permits.
  • Foreign students who are invited by an entity registered in the Free Trade Zone may apply for personal affairs visas marked “internship.” They may apply at the port visa authority or convert from another visa type (if they are already in Guangdong).
  • Overseas Chinese are eligible to apply for permanent residency directly if they hold a doctorate degree or if they work at a Free Trade Zone company for four years with a cumulative total stay in China of at least six months each calendar year. If they are entrepreneurs in the Free Trade Zone, the age limit of 60 will no longer apply. They can either apply for a five-year residence permit by submitting an employment license and a guarantee letter from their employer, or a five- year personal affairs residence permit by submitting a business plan.
  • Investors who invest in the Free Trade Zone for three years cumulative with a total amount of US$1 million will be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Guangdong Province

Senior professionals qualified by Guangdong Province talent authorities, technology and innovation authorities, colleges, universities or scientific research institutions are no longer subject to the age limit of 60. They may apply directly for a five-year residence permit marked “Talent,” or they may apply for permanent residency after working successively for three years with the recommendation of their employer. Processing time has been cut to 90 business days.

Senior professionals may apply for a Talent (R) Visa at the port visa authority and convert to a five-year residence permit; or, if they are already in China with another visa, they may convert their current visa into an R visa or apply for a five-year residence permit. Senior professionals who hold a residence permit may sponsor foreign domestic helpers for “personal affairs” residence permits to perform household services.

Foreign nationals who have worked in Guangdong successively for four years with a cumulative total stay in China of at least six months each calendar year will be able to apply for permanent residency if recommended by their employer, have stable insurance, a place to live and the ability to meet certain annual salary and tax payment criteria. Those who have applied twice for residence permits that are each valid for at least one year may apply for five-year residence permits on the third application. Foreign nationals who hold an employment/expert license may apply directly for a one-year residence permit or a Z work visa at the port of entry followed by a residence permit after entry.

Overseas Chinese who were born or previously held Chinese household registration in Guangdong Province, with a related guarantee letter for visiting relatives/business/science, education, culture and health activities/personal affairs, may apply for a five-year multiple-entry visa or residence permit.

Foreign students who graduated from a college or university of mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau and started a business immediately after graduation may apply for a two-year personal affairs residence permit marked “Entrepreneur.” Once employed by a Guangdong employer, they may proceed to apply for a work permit and residence permit accordingly. Foreign students who urgently intend to study in the primary/middle schools of Guangdong may apply for an X1 visa in the port visa authority with the related application documents and apply for residence permit marked “Study” after entry. If already in Guangdong, they may convert their current visa into a residence permit marked “Study” directly by submitting required documents.

6-day visa-free transit: Guangdong will extend the visa-free transit from 72 hours to 144 hours.

BAL Analysis: The new policies will significantly ease criteria for foreign nationals, senior professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, students and overseas Chinese to become permanent residents in Guangdong.

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

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