US Restricts Visas for Some Chinese Graduate Students

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order suspending the issuance of student visas for Chinese postgraduate-level students linked with universities or entities that “support China’s Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) strategy”.

The Executive Order, issued on May 29th, also provides the Secretary of State the discretion to revoke the F-1 and J-1 visas of Chinese nationals already in the USA with connections to such organisations.

The Presidential proclamation says that from June 1, entry of any Chinese research students seeking to enter the USA on an F-1 or J-1 visa “who either receives funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of, or has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of, an entity in the PRC [People’s Republic of China] that implements or supports the PRC’s “military-civil fusion strategy” is hereby suspended”.

President Trump has issued a proclamation suspending issuance of visas for some Chinese postgraduate students.

The phrase “military-civil fusion strategy” is defined as “actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities”.

In 2018, the USA confirmed that it had reduced the validity period of visas for Chinese students in sensitive subject areas such as robotics, aviation and high-tech manufacturing to one year.

Last year, StudyTravel Magazine reported on the impact of souring trade relations between the USA and China on student recruitment.

In the 2018/19 academic year, 369,548 Chinese students were enrolled at higher education institutions in the USA, according to the latest Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education, making it by far the largest recruitment market.

Rebecca Bernhard, Partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, said there could be a knock-on effect on the visa application process for Chinese students. “The actual suspension likely will impact a narrow number of graduate students and scholars. However, because of the scrutiny to determine which students will be suspended from entry, all students and scholars will face a lot of questions and the burden will likely be on the students and scholars to document that their research programme is NOT subject to the bar.”

Reacting to the suspension, Dr Esther D. Brimmer, Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA Association of International Educators , said, “As we await further details on how this new proclamation will be implemented, we are concerned about the effects that it will have on international education and vital research cooperation. Policies should be carefully crafted to protect national security, without extinguishing the spark of innovation. Sweeping policies can have the disastrous impact of fuelling discrimination. That is deeply troubling and the antithesis of what we believe as a country, that all are created equal.”

NAFSA was critical of the Presidential proclamation.

She added, “In a global competition for talent, policies like this send the wrong message at a time when it is vital for us to attract the best and the brightest to our universities and communities. To keep the United States growing economically and educationally, it’s important that our government enact thoughtful policies that help America thrive. We will continue to make the case that openness and a welcoming posture further enhances our institutions and the United States.”

By Matthew Knott

News Editor

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