China lacks talent—not people, not workers, and not even foreigners—but specifically: the country lacks talent. Since 2013, China has been easing up on visa policies in order to attract skilled workers. While the government continues to ease up on work permits, it has a hard time attracting expats for two reasons: 1) air pollution is a turn off for many seasoned expats (especially older ones with families), and 2) culture shock or cultural mismatch (in the office) causes expats to jump ship or return home mid-contract. So what is the government to do? It’s turned its eyes toward the foreigners already in China: students.
In 2014, about 380,000 foreign students lived and worked in China. The government’s goal is to increase that figure to 500,000 students by the year 2020 in order to foster a larger talent pool from which to draw resources for its workforce.
China has finally recognized young talent as worthy of welcoming to its workforce. Where previously the work visa requirement was two years working experience in a related field abroad, now the two-year work experience criteria has been completely discarded (since February 2016). Without the work experience requirement, students are now eligible for work permits, which in turn mean they can also apply for resident permits. China’s new permanent residence guidelines were jointly issued by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the General Office of the State Council with the purpose of attracting more global talents, optimizing requirements, and streamlining application procedures to ultimately meet the global talent demand of China’s overall development.
The current Z-visa requirements are as follow:
In addition to changes in the employment visa requirements, the application process and required procedures have been streamlined for efficiency. It is now much simpler to have a work permit changed into a permanent resident permit. By making all these changes, China will attract more talented students who’ve either, finished their studies in China and obtained a degree, or have come for a language program, an exchange, or even an internship. Students who have already experienced the ups and downs of life in China, assimilated into the local community (whether local or expat local), and learned some of the language and customs are more likely to perform well in a Chinese working environment than a fresh off the boat foreigner or international expat. After all, not only is the learning curve shorter for young people, but students also tend to be more eager to learn the ropes from their mentors. In other words, a new grad student with China experience and Chinese skills is hot commodity among head hunters and talent scouts!
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