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China to introduce new foreign work permit system


09-28-2016 04:35 BJT

China is set to streamline its nationwide work permit system for foreign employees. Authorities in several regions will launch a pilot program in just over a month. How will the changes affect foreign talent working in China? Joining me is Zhao Lingfeng for the details.

Q1. This change is set to become reality in just over a month. Tell us more about how the new system will be different from the one we have currently. And more importantly how will the new scheme work?

A1. Yes, sure. Let me explain first how the system will change. China currently runs a double-track foreign employment system. Foreigners can come and work in China with two different types of permits. The first type, also known as the Alien Employment Permit or the Z-visa is usually issued for general employement. While the Foreign Expert Permit or R-visa is issued to “high-level” talent whose skills are in urgent need in the labor market. These two different permits are also given out by different government entities.

But starting November the 1st, the double-track system will be replaced with a unified scheme in nine regions shown here, including: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and so on… Foreign workers living in these regions will all receive the same type of work permit document. It will look something like a photo ID with a chip in it.

While the old system was mostly paper-based, the new system will be computerized and each worker will receive a unique number. People will also be able to apply for a permit online. And the application time will be cut in half, to about five working days… So, authorities say the new system will have a better administration system, it will be more efficient and transparent, and foreign workers can be held more accountable during their time here.

Q2. We heard so much about a tiered classification for foreign workers in the new system. Is that true? How is that going to work?

Yes, it is. The exact details of the new system have not been released yet, but what we know is that under the new scheme, all foreign workers will be split into three categories - A, B and C, according to a point-based evaluation system.

Points are assigned to applicants according to their education background, salary level, age, time spent working in China, as well as their Chinese language skill. The more points a foreigner gets, the higher they will be placed. So who will make the A-list? A newspaper by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Services described the Class A candidates as “top professional, innovative and creative talent”.

Other professionals, especially in management and technical areas, will fall into the B category. Class C workers will include unskilled or service industry workers. In terms of ease of application, A-list professionals will be more than welcome here with most channels open to them. While B class applicants will face stricter controls. Even stronger limits will be imposed on C class workers.

To put it simply, the new system will "encourage the top, control the middle and limit the number of lower skilled foreign workers. Authorities believe the new system will help China serve the type of foreign talent that  China really needs.

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