12/19/2013 01:24 EST | Updated 02/17/2014 05:59 EST

China issues Bloomberg reporters press credentials after delay seen as retaliation for reports

BEIJING, China - Beijing has issued press credentials to financial news agency Bloomberg's China-based reporters after a tense delay seen as retaliation for the company's hard-hitting reports on the country's leaders.

The move marks a significant step toward obtaining residence visas that would allow them to stay in the country, after the government's earlier delay raised concerns China was effectively forcing out the organization's reporters.

Bloomberg's spokeswoman in Singapore, Belina Tan, confirmed Thursday by email the company has received all of its China press cards and was operating as usual.

Reporters with The New York Times have faced similar delays, but it was not immediately clear if they had received their Foreign Ministry-issued press cards. The Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The two news organizations have had their websites blocked in China since late last year after each published detailed investigative reports exposing the enormous wealth amassed by the relatives of Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping and former Premier Wen Jiabao.

The reporters still need police to grant them one-year residence permits but in most cases, obtaining such a permit is only a formality once the foreign ministry endorses the person by issuing a press card.

Asked about the delay, the foreign ministry has previously said only that it treats foreign journalists according to Chinese laws and regulations.

Worries about China's increasing pressure on foreign reporters prompted U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden to publicly rebuke China on the issue during his visit to the country early this month. He met with U.S. journalists working in Beijing during his visit and also raised the issue directly with Xi.