• The Zhongguancun National Demonstration Zone has several tech companies that employ expatriates.

The Zhongguancun National Demonstration Zone has several tech companies that employ expatriates. (Photo : REUTERS)

A service center has been established in Beijing on Tuesday to cater to foreigners in the Zhongguancun technology hub who are seeking permanent residence, as part of efforts by authorities to attract more overseas talent and investment, as reported by China Daily.

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The center is targeting foreigners who put up businesses or are employed in the Zhongguancun National Demonstration Zone. It will offer them visa, residential permit and permanent residence services.

Located in Beijing's Haidian District, the center is part of 20 new measures introduced on Tuesday to make it easier for talented foreigners to work in the capital.

The center is essentially a pilot program, and experience gained from the program would allow them to promote similar services in other parts of the city or even the country, according to Wang Xi, deputy head of the Exit-Entry Department of the Beijing Public Security Bureau.

"Restrictions have been relaxed to enable more foreign talent to come here to start new businesses," said Wang.

According to Wang, the policy will help top foreign professionals, overseas Chinese who graduated from foreign universities and start businesses in the capital, foreign students in Beijing, and foreigners who are employed in entrepreneurial startups in the city.

Expatriates can apply for permanent residency after working in Beijing for four consecutive years in accordance with the evaluation system drafted by the Beijing Human Resource and Social Security Bureau. They also must have remained in the capital for at least six months per year and earn at least 500,000 yuan ($76,400) annually, with at least 100,000 yuan going to taxes per year.

"The evaluation system also includes market factors," said Wang, mentioning that the permanent residence requirements were drafted after studying average income levels in Beijing.

On Tuesday, the service window at the center attracted several foreigners inquiring about permanent residence and visas. It also received four applications for permanent residence, according to staff members who asked to remain anonymous.

Huang Yung, a citizen of the United States and vice president of the Cloud and Intelligent Computing Department of Lenovo Research & Technology, was the first expatriate to apply for permanent residence.

"Without permanent residence, it takes about 20 work days to apply for a work visa, and the approval process takes about a month. That means you must spend at least two months on the application process," said Huang.

In contrast, Huang said that the application for permanent residency took only an hour and a half.