Gu Chong, a professor of statistics at Purdue University in the U.S., was glad that he recently got a confirmation letter for getting an R Visa or the foreign talents visa. In September 2017, he was invited to China by Tsinghua University to work as a distinguished professor for a year.
Doing academic work, Gu has to take many trips to and from China. The R Visa, which is a long-term, multi-entry visa, provides convenience and flexibility, so he applied for it, Gu said. The application process was guided by the Beijing foreign experts service staff, and all he needed to do was provide the needed information and documents as instructed, he recalled.
"As a current 10-year, multi-entry Q2 Visa holder, I really enjoy the convenience. With a potential long-term, multi-entry visa (R Visa), one would be able to enjoy the same convenience while conducting academic affairs," Gu told Metropolitan.
Xinhua News Agency reported on January 4 that the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) announced easier visa permits for high-skilled foreign workers as part of China's effort to bridge the talent gap.
Before the new rule, China has issued R Visas or the foreign talents visa for foreign experts whose skills are urgently and highly needed in China. Now the applicants will be expanded to those who are qualified as high-level talents or fall into Category A in the Categories for Foreigners Working in China, including scientists, entrepreneurs and leading experts in science and technology industries.
The expiration date of the visa could be extended to five to 10 years after issuance, with multiple entries and 180-day stays for a single entry. Spouses and minor children of the applicants could gain the same visa as early as a day after filing the applications. Applicants could get their confirmation letters within five working days. With the confirmation letters, they can apply for the R Visa. The application is free of charge, Xinhua said.
The new rule has triggered much discussion in the expat community about its potential influence and problems. Metropolitan has interviewed several foreigners and experts to share their insights on the new visa policy.
Posing a positive influence
Since it was launched, some places including Beijing, Shanghai and Sichuan Province have issued confirmation letters and R Visa to applicants.
Gu is among the first batch of recipients of the confirmation letters in Beijing. He said he wants to come to China because he has been intrigued by the recent devotion of China and Tsinghua to data sciences. He would like to participate through working at the Tsinghua Center for Statistical Science.
"I think the new visa policy would encourage the proliferation of academic exchanges between domestic and overseas researchers, promoting international collaborations on science and technology," said Gu.
He said the recent long-term visa is a "godsend" compared to his previous two-year visas. "A sense of belonging could mean much to many. The long-term, multi-entry visa is a big step forward."
Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, said since it was newly launched, the effect takes time to see. But at least it releases a positive signal that China is welcoming and friendly to foreign talents. Before, the focus on foreigners by the government was in management and safety.
"This is progress and another new measure to attract foreign talents after the Chinese green card," said Wang.
Glen Loveland, an American who works as the HR Manager of CGTN, has been in China for 10 years.
"I don't think there will be much effect on overseas applicants themselves. But it will give companies more incentive to target these kinds of talents given the more streamlined process," said Loveland.
He added that China has made a number of changes to its visa policies in 2017. In general, the changes are all welcome. Anything that can streamline the process and make it more efficient is good news.
"There's greater interest in China than there ever has been before. The world is waking up and realizing that China's place on the world economic stage is unstoppable. Many of the current policies are most likely to attract those with strong China links, such as having family in the country," he said.
"What's clear is that China is sending a strong message that it only wants to attract and retain higher-level foreign talent. Given that so many Chinese companies are now leading the way in areas like IT and tech, it's not difficult to imagine a diverse array of applicants choosing Chinese brands over their homegrown ones."