In its continuing quest to attract more highly-skilled foreign talent — and limit the number of less-skilled laowai — China is planning to streamline its work visa system, while also neatly categorizing all the expats.
Currently, if you want to work in China, there are two types of work permits you can apply for: an employment license for foreigners from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security or a foreign expert work permit from the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA).
The system has always been a bit confusing, what with figuring out who is a foreign expert and who is not. And one permit is obviously easier than two, so China has decided to simply combine them into a single unified work permit. According to the SAFEA, this will help to simplify the process and reduce the paper. High-end foreign talent hate nothing more than complicated paperwork, so SAFEA reasons that these new rules will help see the number of highly-skilled expats in China swell.
However, perhaps the more interesting revelation about these new rules comes later, with the administration explaining that it will classify all foreign workers into three distinct categories: A (top talent), B (professional talent), and C (unskilled workers or those working the service industry).
While a “green channel” for applying for a work visa will be opened to those A-graded individuals, the B and C categories of expats will be limited by the government.
So, how exactly will you be graded? Well, as you might expect, it’s all rather vague. The Global Times explains that foreigners will be given points based on: their salary in China, their educational background, how long they’ve worked in China, their Chinese language proficiency, their age, and where they work (you’ll get more points for working in less developed regions).
85 points or higher? You get an A, congratulations, you’re one of the good ones! Only 60 points or higher? That’s a B, still have some work to do. Below 60 points? Sorry, you’re a C-level talent. You have been judged and found wanting.
Excited to find out your rank? Well, the reform goes nationwide next April, but a trial run will begin in October for those living in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, as well as in Anhui, Guangdong, Hebei, Ningxi, Shandong and Sichuan.
Whether you’re an A, B, or C, you’ll get a snazzy new work permit card with an identification number that can be used like your passport to buy train tickets and such.
This year, China has been cracking down on “illegal foreigners,” while also trying their best to attract more top-level talent. Last month, the Shanghai government relaxed its age restrictions for foreign workers — just so long as those foreign workers are corporate execs.