• A police officer in Shanghai shows two identification cards issued to nonlocal residents in the city.

A police officer in Shanghai shows two identification cards issued to nonlocal residents in the city. (Photo : Getty Images)

Shanghai became the first city to implement the first unified work permit for foreign workers in China as it launched a pilot program on Thursday, Nov. 4, which is expected to help highly skilled expats obtain a work permit more easily.

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China Daily said the new unified work permit for foreigners will replace the Alien Employment Permit and Foreign Experts Certificate, issued by two different government agencies, which sometimes takes months to obtain.

The move came as Shanghai hopes to attract more skilled foreign workers to hasten the city's development as a scientific and technological innovation hub.

One of the first foreign experts to receive the permit is Joaquim Nassar, French dean of SJTU-Paris Tech Elite Institute of Technology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

"I appreciate that the Chinese administration is aware that to attract world-class talent, they need to make it easy and straightforward for foreigners," Nassar said.

At the news briefing and issuance ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 4, Zhao Zhuping, head of the Shanghai Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, said that Shanghai will lead and gather experience for the country in exploring the mechanism to nurture internationally competitive talents.

Zhao said that the new work permit will be implemented across the China to have a unified management of foreign workers in the country.

The number of resident foreign experts in Shanghai has reached 93,000 last year, up from 88,000 in 2013, data from the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and National Bureau of Statistics showed.

About 150,000 employment permits and expert certificates, for nearly 40,000 employers, were approved and issued by Shanghai last year, the report said.

The single unified work permit will now serve as a legal document for foreigners who want to work in China and each of them will be issued a lifetime unique identification number. The permit will also have the recognition of public security, foreign affairs, customs, tax, education and human resources agencies in the future.

Under the new program, skilled expats recruited to work in Shanghai only have to complete an online application and do not need to submit applications before entering the country.

To make it more convenient, foreign workers who have applied at least twice for a one-year work permit are qualified to apply for a five-year work permit.