The warning comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries, which last year lead to the US State Department shortening the length of visas for Chinese graduate students from five years to one year in certain STEM fields.
“Some Chinese students who want to study in the US have been encountering visa restrictions”
“The bilateral educational exchanges and cooperation have become complicated under the backdrop of the China-US economic and trade frictions,” said Xu Yongji, a ministry official in charge of international cooperation at a press conference in Beijing.
“It has been the case for a while that some Chinese students who want to study in the US have been encountering visa restrictions, prolonged review times, shortened time validity and a rising rate of visa rejections.”
The MoE spokesperson also told students seeking to study at US universities to “strengthen [their] risk assessment”.
In April, at least 100 Chinese international students who visited their home country during a 2018 school break reported that they were unable to return to their studies in the US due to their visa applications being caught up in lengthy delays and “administrative processing”.
In addition, the MoE recently reported that 13.5% of students funded by the China Scholarship Council to study in the US in the first quarter of 2019 were unable to go due to visa issues, more than four times the proportion in 2018.
Senior analyst at British Council Kevin Prest said the MoE’s announcement has been widely discussed on Chinese social media and is likely to contribute to a growing perception of the US as an unwelcoming destination for Chinese students.
“The ongoing trade war between China and the US is already starting to affect student mobility, and the British Council’s discussions with agents suggest that some students who were formerly considering studying in the United States have switched their attention to other countries such as the UK, Australia or Canada,” he said in a statement.
Prest added that this has been particularly common in high-technology subject areas where the US imposed tighter visa restrictions in 2018.
MoE spokesperson Yongji said that these kinds of behaviours have “hurt the dignity of Chinese students studying in the United States and have seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”.
Meanwhile, educators in the US have expressed concern over the Trump administration’s stance toward international students, with a new NAFSA report warning that anti-immigrant rhetoric has created a chilling effect on enrolment as the country is increasingly viewed as “unwelcoming to international students and scholars”.