Shanghai Relaxes Permanent Residence Criteria for Applicants with PhD Degree

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Shanghai has updated its permanent residence application criteria to allow expatriates with PhD degrees and current employment in the city to apply, reflecting efforts to attract high-end talent. The eligibility requirements include a valid PhD degree, compliance with Chinese laws, good health, and no criminal records, while the foreign spouse and unmarried children under 18 years old can also apply.

UPDATE (September 20, 2023): China will issue an upgraded version of the Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card from December 1, 2023, with design improvements and enhanced functionality. Key changes include a new design with a five-star element, advanced security features, an extended 18-digit card number, and increased functionality for managing personal affairs online. The new card does not invalidate the current one, and foreigners with permanent residence status will enjoy benefits like simplified administrative processes and enhanced overall experiences in China.

Following the release of new criteria for permanent residence applications for working staff on May 1, 2023, Shanghai has recently updated its permanent residence application criteria for applicants with a PhD degree.

Under the new criteria, all expatriates holding a PhD degree and currently working in Shanghai are eligible to apply for permanent residence. Previously, only overseas Chinese were qualified for this category. This relaxation of criteria signifies Shanghai’s increased efforts to attract more high-end and special-skilled talent to work and reside in the city.

Similar to the changes in the permanent residence application for working staff, expatriates with PhD degrees now need to provide a non-criminal record from China in addition to the non-criminal record from their home countries.

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions for permanent applications under this category.

What are the eligibility requirements for expatriates with PhD degrees applying for permanent residence?

According to the Shanghai Entry-Exit Administration Bureau, the current eligibility criteria for expatriates with PhD degrees applying for permanent residence are as follows:

  • Possession of a valid PhD degree
  • Current employment in Shanghai
  • Compliance with Chinese laws
  • Good health
  • No criminal records

Can family members of expatriates with PhD degrees apply for permanent residence in Shanghai as well?

The foreign spouse and unmarried children under 18 years old of expatriates with PhD degrees can apply for permanent residence together, provided that they comply with Chinese laws, maintain good health, and have no criminal records.

What documents are required for expatriates with a PhD degree when they apply for permanent residence in Shanghai?

Required Documents for Permanent Residence Application of Expatriates with a PhD Degree

Materials to be submitted Notes
1. Complete Application Form for Permanent Residence in China, and provide 2 copies of two-inch recent photos
2. Valid passport and employment-typed residence permit 2 copies each
3. PhD degree diploma and the Authentication Certificate

If the diploma was issued by a domestic educational institution, then China Higher-education Verification Report (via China Higher-education student information website, or Shanghai Students Affairs Center) also must be provided.

If the diploma was issued by an overseas educational institution, then Foreign academic degree Verification issued by Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) (via Overseas Academic Degree Accreditation System by Education Ministry) must also be provided

2 copies of each


4. Valid Working Permit (or Employment Permit, Foreign Expert Certificate) 2 copies
5. Employment certificate issued by the employer 1 copy
6. Employer’s Business License (counterpart) or relevant registration certificate, its online annual report for recent year, Certificate of Approval for Establishment of Enterprises with foreign investment or Receipt for the Establishment of Enterprises with foreign investment or Receipt for Change of Enterprises with foreign investment (If the document can be provided, not required for domestic companies) 2 copies each
7. A Health Check certificate which was issued by a domestic entry-exit inspection and quarantine agency (or by foreign medical institutions verified by Embassy /Consulate General of China)

The health certificate should be issued within the validity of the last 6 months

1 copy


8. A Criminal Record/ Background check which shows no trace or history of any kind must be verified by the Embassy/Consulate General of China.

The Record Check must be issued by relevant national-level competent authority and shall specify the verification result of the applicant criminal record.

The name on the Record Check must match that on the valid passport. In case the applicant has changed names, the former names should be noted in the Record.

In case the applicant has lived in a country/region outside the passport-issuing country for successively two years or longer after he/she is 18 years old, a clear Criminal Record check from that country/region is also required.

The Record(s) should be issued within the validity of the last 6 months (In case the duration of validity noted on the Record Check is less than 6 months, then the note on the Record Check shall prevail).

1 copy
9. The Certificate of No Criminal Record in China (which should cover all passport numbers used by the applicant during their stay in China). The original and one photocopy

Are there any requirements regarding the number of residence days in China, annual income, or tax payments for expatriates with a PhD degree applying for permanent residence?

Currently, for this category of permanent residence applicants, there is no specific requirement regarding:

  • Residence days in China for previous years
  • Annual salary income
  • Annual tax payment

What is the timeline for processing the PR application?

The application shall be handled and reported to the Ministry of Public Security in 90 working days after all the required documents are submitted. Here the time for investigation is excluded if some items need to be investigated by the Public Security Bureau.

Dezan Shira & Associates Human Resources and Payroll team is experienced in permanent residence application in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and other major China cities. For assistance on permanent residence applications, please contact

(This article was originally published on June 5, 2023, and last updated on September 20, 2023)

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