China offers 10-year visas to 'high end talent'

China has started rolling out its new fast-track, long-stay visas for "high-end talent", documents meant to encourage specialists such as top scientists and businesspeople to live and work in China.

The roll-out began on Tuesday with the Beijing Bureau of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs issuing the country's first Certificate for Foreign High-end Talent, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday, without identifying the recipient.

The certificate is necessary to apply for one of the new five- or 10-year multiple-entry visas. Technology leaders, entrepreneurs and scientists from in-demand sectors are among those eligible to apply.

Applications for the visas can be made online, are free of charge and will be processed quickly, the Chinese government said.

Visa holders will be allowed to remain in the country for up to 180 days at a time, and will be eligible to bring partners and children.

According to government guidelines, high-end foreigners also refer to, among others, Nobel Prize winners, chief or deputy editors in Chinese state media, foreign coaches and players in national and provincial sports teams, postdoctoral students from world-class universities outside China, and foreigners who earn at least six times the average annual wage in China.

The average annual income in Beijing in 2016 was 92,477 yuan (US$14,220), according to official statistics.

The visas are part of a top-down drive to make China a more attractive place to work and stay, as China has set out goals for its economic and social development, and sees recruiting experts from abroad as key to achieving that.

In 2016, China introduced a ranking system for expatriates, aimed at identifying the skills it wanted to attract while reducing the number of lower-skilled foreigners coming into the country. The Chinese government also relaxed the country's green card rules, extending eligibility for permanent residency to foreigners working in broader fields than just government departments or laboratories involved in "key national projects".

According to a document released at the time, those classed as "high-end foreign talent" included Nobel Prize winners, successful Olympic athletes and directors of "world famous colleges of music fine arts and arts". Top scientists, heads of major financial institutions and professors of "overseas high-level universities" also fit the bill.

China is in the middle of its biggest influx of foreign-educated professionals, said Xinhua.

In September 2017, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced that China was at a critical stage of economic restructuring, and that the country had to adopt a more open policy for foreign experts.

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