What is the change? Shanghai has introduced a series of immigration reforms aimed at promoting the city as a technology and innovation hub.

What does the change mean? The policies reduce bureaucracy and provide more flexibility for high-level foreign talent, entrepreneurs, investors and students to work and live in Shanghai.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate. The policies were implemented Dec. 9.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work visas and residence permits.
  • Who is affected: Foreign professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, students, overseas Chinese and others.
  • Impact on processing times: The changes reduce processing times for permanent residency for certain applicants.
  • Business impact: The policies are intended to make Shanghai a more attractive destination for companies and foreign national employees and their families.

Key policies:

Foreign “high-level professionals

Eligible high-level foreign professionals (and their spouses and dependents under 18) who are verified by the Shanghai Public Security Bureau or a related government unit, with the recommendation of the Administrative Committee of the Shanghai Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone and Shanghai Free Trade Zone (“Two Zones”), will be able to apply for permanent residence and enjoy a shorter processing time.

Foreign talent

Foreign talent who hold a master’s degree or higher and who are invited or employed by a company from the “Two Zones” or approved by the State Council for the establishment of the “nationwide entrepreneurship, public innovation” (“Two Innovations”) demonstration zones, or by a university or the Science and Research Institute in Shanghai, may apply for a talent visa in the Shanghai port visa office directly. Those who enter China with another visa may transfer to a talent visa or residence permit after entry.

Foreign talent who fulfil a market demand and intend to apply for permanent residence, or who want to transfer from a work-type residence permit to permanent residence, will be allowed to apply together with their spouse and dependents under 18.

Hiring foreign domestic helpers

Foreign or Hong Kong/Macao/Taiwan high-level talent who obtain permanent residence or work-type residence permits may employ foreign domestic helpers who are eligible for personal affairs (S2) visas directly at the Shanghai port visa office.

Overseas Chinese

Overseas Chinese who hold a doctorate degree or higher, or who have worked in a “Two Zones” and “Two Innovations” demonstration zone continuously for four years and stayed in China for no less than six months each year, will be eligible to apply for permanent residence. The spouse and dependent under age 18 will also be eligible to apply together.

Overseas Chinese who intend to visit relatives, conduct business negotiations, conduct science, education, culture, or health exchange activities or attend to personal affairs, will be eligible to apply for multiple-entry visas valid for less than five years. Those who intend to reside in Shanghai in the long term for work, study, visiting relatives or for personal affairs, will be eligible to apply for residence permits valid for less than five years.

Foreign Investor

Foreign investors who are natural-person shareholders or legal-person shareholders or a control shareholder natural person (based on corporate-registration designations) directly investing in Shanghai, with a stable investment of at least US$1 million for three consecutive years and who also maintain a good tax payment record, will be eligible to apply for permanent residence directly. The spouse and dependent under age 18 will also be eligible to apply together.

Foreign Students

Foreign students studying at universities in Shanghai who have the approval and a reference letter from the university are eligible to apply for a study-type residence permit with the designation “entrepreneurship,” enabling them to conduct part-time entrepreneurship activities in companies of “Two Zones” and “Two Innovations” demonstration zones.

Foreign students studying outside of China and who are invited by a company in Shanghai, may apply for short-term personal affairs visas in the Shanghai port visa office marked “Internship.” Those who enter China with another visa may transfer to a short-term personal-affairs visa designated “Intern.”

Foreign students studying in primary or middle schools in Shanghai who need to enroll in school urgently with a certificate such as an Enrolment Notice may apply for a study visa (X1) in the Shanghai port visa office and transfer to a study-type residence permit. Those who enter China with another visa type may transfer to a study-type residence permit after entry.

Documents for Permanent Residence

The documents issued by authorities abroad that are required for permanent residence applications, such as police clearance/non-criminal records, marriage certificates, birth certificates, family relationship certificates, adoption certificates, etc., must be legalized by the Chinese embassy or consulate in the country where the document was issued, or the applicant may submit related documentary proof from the foreign country’s embassy or consulate in China. Previously, the second option was not available.

BAL Analysis: The changes provide greater flexibility for several categories of foreign talent to gain residency in Shanghai or convert to residence permits from an existing visa category. All applications related to the new policies will be submitted to an officer face-to-face, and each case will be individually reviewed and assessed. Applicants are encouraged to reach out to BAL for assistant and assessment before submitting their applications.

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

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