Major higher education groups issued statements Wednesday expressing concern about the Trump administration's reported plans to limit the length of visas for certain Chinese citizens starting June 11. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the administration intends to limit Chinese graduate students studying certain high-tech fields to one-year visas -- instead of the usual five -- due to concerns about intellectual property theft.
In 2014, the Obama administration extended the terms for visas for Chinese citizens from one year to five years for students and from one to 10 years for tourists.
"While apparently aimed at Chinese students in certain STEM fields, this would have a chilling effect on our ability to attract international students from all countries," Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, said in a statement. "These students have been critical to research that supports U.S. economic growth and fuels innovation. We are anxious to do our part to ensure that America’s national and economic security is protected, while at the same time preserving the U.S. as a destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students and scholars.”
A statement from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities likewise walked a line in weighing national and economic security considerations against the desire to attract top students to the U.S.
“As important partners with the federal government, public research universities recognize that protecting intellectual property is essential to the security and competitiveness of the United States," the association said. “At the same time, to protect against security concerns we believe that student-visa policies for Chinese citizens should be narrowly tailored to ensure they don’t needlessly deter the brightest minds from studying in our country. Our nation’s policies should aim to attract and retain top foreign students who will come here to make discoveries, pioneer innovations, and go on to start businesses in the U.S. that create new jobs."
Asked by Inside Higher Ed to confirm or otherwise comment on reports that the administration plans to implement a policy change on June 11 that would limit the length of visas for some Chinese citizens, a State Department official, Noel Clay, said in a written statement that the maximum validity for a tourist visa for Chinese nationals is 10 years and remains unchanged.
"Although the large majority of visa applicants receive full validity, consular officers can always limit visas on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances of each case. All visa cases are adjudicated on a case by case basis according to U.S. law and applicable regulations. As always, although the large majority of visa applicants receive full validity visas, consular officers reserve the right to limit visas on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the specific case. The visa application process has not changed. We will continue to keep the public informed of any changes they need to be aware of to apply for visas."
Clay did not respond to a follow-up question seeking confirmation of whether there is new guidance to consulates that would limit visas for all or some Chinese graduate students studying certain high-tech fields at U.S. universities to one-year terms, as was reported by the Associated Press.