Understanding Shanghai Immigration


Shanghai has always been in the forefront in trying to attract and keep talented foreign workers to make the city a global technology and innovation center. There are an estimated 200,000 foreign residents in the city, according to official figures. In previous years, Shanghai immigration policies have been simplified to attract even more foreign talent.

Should a company’s foray into the Shanghai market not only entail local recruitment in China, but also encompasses the need for skilled expatriates, this article provides an overview of Shanghai immigration policies.

New Integrated Work Permit System

Shanghai was one of the nine pilot provinces/cities in which a new integrated work authorization policy was put to trial in China in November 2016. This saw the introduction of the single, unified Foreigner’s Work Permit (FWP) issued by the State Administration of Foreign Affairs (SAFEA) or more locally, the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SHAFEA).

Under the integrated system, foreign nationals working in China are categorized into one of three groups (A, B and C) that classify the holder as high-end top talent personnel, professional personnel, or temporary and seasonal personnel in the service or non-technical sectors. Criteria such as salary, educational background, Chinese language proficiency, age, work experience and length of service determine the applicable group.

Below is a schematic representation of the process flow:


1. Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Foreign Affairs

2. Chinese Embassies and Consulates in foreign countries

3. Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Foreign Experts Affairs

4. Exit-Entry Administration of Shanghai Public Security Bureau

Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit (E-version)

Z Visa Issuance

·Z Visa Entry

·Physical Examination

·Foreigner’s Work Permit

Residence Permit (30 days)

Easier Path to Permanent Residency

To help Shanghai become a global technological innovation hub by 2030, the Ministry of Public Security has allowed Shanghai to pilot a simplified procedure for granting expats “green cards” or permanent residence permits. This takes away the need for regular renewals of residence permits of shorter terms.

Since July 2015, foreigners who have lived in the city for four years, with a gross salary of least 600,000 yuan (US$97,000) and paid at least 120,000 yuan in tax each year are eligible to apply. Employees working for one of the 3,500 ‘Innovative’ firms as listed by the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission can also directly apply for permanent residency once they have worked for over 3 years.

Moreover, expats working at the Shanghai Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone or the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, along with their spouses and children, can directly apply for permanent residency with a recommendation from the administrative committees of the zones.


Additional Changes

Previously, foreign students who graduated from Chinese universities needed two years of relevant work experience before they could get a residence permit. Now, they may receive a permit for up to two years for an internship or to set up a business.

These changes have made working in Shanghai much easier. It also opens up more opportunities for individuals and companies, especially if they employ highly-skilled labor.




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