China is relaxing its visa rules for foreign workers to attract global talent to rev up its growth.A new pilot programme unveiled by the Ministry of Public Security this past week allows anyone who has been employed in China for at least two consecutive years to apply for a five-year work permit.

Earlier, most foreign employees had to apply for a new work permit every year, even when hired on multiyear contracts.

The trial programme is expected to be rolled out in coming months in “demonstration zones for innovative reform” in a total of nine cities and province-level governments, including Beijing, Wuhan and Hebei province, and 11 free trade zones, including those in Tianjin, Chongqing and Henan province.

The move comes as business leaders such as Baidu chief Robin Li urged Beijing to make it easier for them to hire top global talent that might have otherwise gone to the United States but were “put off” by US President Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies.

Those who have worked in China for more than four consecutive years while residing in the country for at least six months of each year, and who meet a certain salary and income tax threshold, are now eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit.

The authorities have not revealed details about these specific thresholds. China has been seeking to ease visa rules for foreigners, particularly those linked to the tightly controlled permanent residency or “green card” programme, in recent years to attract the best brains to help bolster its slowing economy.

The Public Security Ministry has also moved to decentralise the Chinese green card system, allowing free trade zone management to process green card applications from top international talent. Earlier, this fell within the purview of the provincial and regional governments.

Under the new rules, foreign students graduating from Chinese universities can apply for a residence permit valid for two to five years.

This would allow them to gain work experience or launch their own start-ups.

Foreign students graduating from universities outside China can also apply for a similar visa to gain work experience through a Chinese employer registered with the Entry and Exit Departments under the ministry.

The number of foreign students enrolled in Chinese universities jumped nearly 11.4 per cent last year to 443,000, according to the Education Ministry.