He made the comments while speaking to reporters about tensions between China and the US, referring to Chinese students as “tremendous assets”.
“We want to keep these people here”
This is despite concerns that visa issuance into the US is becoming more complicated: visa rejection rates are reportedly rising and Chinese students face one-year visa limits for some master’s degrees.
“We have a problem…in our country that you graduate number one in your class from the best school in the country, and they say you have to leave; we can’t keep them,” stated Trump.
“We’re going to call it the ‘smart person’s waiver’. But we’re going to make it so that they can not only stay but have access to green cards. We want to keep these people here.”
But the news – if it turns into policy – may be too little too late to repair the damage done to the US’s reputation as the world’s most popular study destination.
In June 2018, new regulations capped postgraduate work visa lengths for Chinese students in fields like robotics, aviation and hi-tech manufacturing to just one year, a response to Beijing’s increased focus on science and technology, which has fuelled fears of corporate espionage and intellectual property theft.
Chinese graduates pursuing research or management positions at certain companies also now require clearance from several different US agencies, a process which can take months.
However Emily Guerrant, spokesperson for Michigan State University – one of the most popular universities among Chinese students – told The PIE News that despite political tensions around access to the US, they were expecting a bigger cohort of international students enrolling for the 2019/2020 academic year.
“While we realise the national dialogue around international students and visas can impact both the desire and intent for international students to come to Michigan State University, we have worked to ensure that students feel welcome on our campus and in our community,” explained Guerrant.
To date, no further details of the ‘smart person’s waiver’ have been released.