In one of its boldest moves yet to attract high-caliber talent, Shanghai plans to soon issue "green cards" granting nearly all residency rights to foreign experts and returning Chinese students, according to the Personnel Bureau.
The bureau has presented a draft proposal to municipal government and hopes to have the new rules in place by the end of the year.
Under the plan, "Shanghai green cards" would be issued for one-to-three-year periods, allowing holders to live and work here and to travel abroad with a minimum of bureaucracy.
The residency cards also would put outsiders on equal footing with Shanghainese in matters concerning housing, car purchases, starting a business and children's education.
Red tape would be cut when processing applications for business permits, bank loans and foreign exchange; however, the right to vote or hold political office will not be granted.
"The flexible policy will help us attract talented overseas Chinese and foreigners to make technological and cultural contributions to the city," Sun Luyi, Personnel Bureau director, said in an interview with Shanghai Oriental TV Station.
Overseas professionals would be able to work for government institutes and state-owned enterprises, launch their own businesses and invest in others.
New talent is being sought, especially in information technology, finance, insurance, electronics and biochemistry, said Huang Weimao, director of the Shanghai Service Center for Returned Chinese Scholars.
Huang believes the number of overseas professionals flowing into the city will increase significantly after the policy goes into effect.
"Local government and the bureau will figure out detailed quotas to introduce talent from abroad into appropriate areas according to the city's economic and strategic development," Huang said.
Eligibility rules also are still being worked out.
The city is home to 1.13 million working professionals - those with at least a three-year vocational college degree, according to the bureau.
Some 17,000 Chinese students have returned to Shanghai after finishing their studies overseas, and another 10,000 expatriates are living and working in the city.
"Hopefully, the green-card policy will further build the city into an international hub for high-level talent in the near future," said bureau chief Sun.
The new policy, though still in its formative stage, is attracting significant attention among returned Chinese students.
"I'm happy about the policy because it could allow me to move freely inside and outside the city," said Tan Haiyin, a Shanghainese who left the country to earn a master of business administration degree at Harvard Business School. She became involved in an e-business Website partner-ship two years ago.
Shanghai is not the first city to use green-card inducements in its talent search. In February, the Tianjin government, a municipality neighboring Beijing, granted the first batch of these documents in the country to four foreign businessmen as a reward for their commitment to China's ongoing economic development.