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February 10, 2012

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Shanghai planning to extend expat visas

SHANGHAI is working on a policy to extend the visas of expats working in regional headquarters of multinational corporations, according to a senior city official.

"The Shanghai Commission of Commerce is working with the city's exit and entry administration to allow foreign employees of multinational corporations' regional headquarters to have longer visa validity," Chen Xianjin, the commission's vice chairman, said yesterday.

The policy will be included in a set of preferential policies for multinationals to encourage more to set up headquarters in Shanghai, Chen told a symposium for senior corporation officials.

At present, most foreign employees in the city have to reapply for visas every year. Only senior officials or staff of sizable enterprises can have longer visas.

"It is too inconvenient for our foreign staffers in Shanghai. Their work will be influenced during the visa application period for at least five days," said Jenny Wang, Asia Pacific vice president of investment and business development for Goodyear Tire Management.

Wang said the city should allow foreign workers visa validity in line with their contracts. "Shanghai should have full supportive policies since the city wants to attract more multinational corporations' regional headquarters," she said.

By the end of last year, up to 347 multinational companies relocated their regional headquarters to Shanghai after the city introduced favorable policies.

"Foreign investment has been accounting for 30 percent of the city's total tax revenue while providing 30 percent of the city's job opportunities," Chen said.

According to Chen, the city government is still working out details of social security policies for foreign employees.

Under a regulation issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, all expat workers and their employers will have to pay the same social premiums as their Chinese counterparts.

Many foreign executives yesterday expressed concern that the tax would increase costs.

"We do hope the city government can give more details on the social security policy soon so that we can prepare early for the policy that will cost a lot for the company," said Johnny Yao, vice president of procurement for WPP Corporate.

"I can fully understand the policy but I feel doubt whether our foreign workers in Shanghai can enjoy the social insurance in the end," said Ding Hui, managing director of Inter IKEA Centre Group in China.


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