The U.S. State Department to Release New Limitations on Student Visas for Chinese Nationals

June 8, 2018

In December 2017, the White House released a new National Security Strategy aimed at reducing "economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors” and protecting American intellectual property by tightening visa procedures. On May 29, 2018, as part of the new strategy, the State Department released plans for new visa restrictions on Chinese students studying STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). These new restrictions are expected as early as June 11, 2018.

Under the new restrictions, Chinese students studying priority fields such as robotics and aviation may now be limited to one-year visas. Other Chinese citizens working for companies on the U.S. Commerce Department’s “higher scrutiny” list may need special clearance from multiple U.S. agencies to acquire visas. The application process itself will not change, but the new clearance requirements will likely take months for each visa application.

These new visa restrictions come in conjunction with the ongoing trade and technological tensions between the United States and China. The Trump administration has expressed disapproval of China’s "Made in China 2025” policy, which was designed to bring China to the forefront of cutting-edge technology.

Last month, the administration heightened tensions by ordering a halt on selling critical components to one of China’s largest international tech companies. In the last two weeks, Chinese officials have reaffirmed the Made in China policy and pledged to take measures to protect the country’s interests. With trade talks between the United States and China ending in a stalemate, there will likely be consequences on the economic relationship between the two countries if these visa restrictions are implemented next Monday as expected.

Universities are also concerned with the effect these new restrictions will have on their ability to attract promising Chinese students and on collaborative projects with Chinese researchers. These restrictions may also lower U.S. appeal to researchers and students in technical fields and cause them to turn to other countries such as Canada.

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