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Trump decree affecting Chinese student visas

Chinese international students are still being denied visas under a proclamation issued by Donald Trump during his tenure as president.

The presidential proclamation 10043 - implemented during the Trump administration - was stated as the reason for the visa denial. Photo: Pexels

Any number would underestimate the proclamation’s impact

Forbes spoke with a fifth-year PhD student focusing on artificial intelligence in transportation who had been in the US since 2018.

The student was denied a visa to return to the US, after she visited family in China, meaning she cannot complete her PhD and is having to continue her course remotely.

The presidential proclamation 10043 was stated as the reason for the visa denial. Under the presidential proclamation, graduates and researchers with links to China’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy’ are banned from entering the US.

The American Council on Education has told The PIE News that it understands only a small number of graduate students are being impacted by the proclamation.

For example, those who are studying specific STEM subjects or have ties to certain organisations.

However, more transparency around decision making would benefit students and institutions, according to the organisation.

Forbes reported that in 2021, U.S. consular officers refused 1,964 visas for Chinese nationals due to the presidential proclamation, according to data from the State Department. This data showed that 47 people “overcame” the initial refusal.

Statistics are not yet available for FY 2022 or FY 2023, but Forbes reported that any number would underestimate the proclamation’s impact since students and researchers who expect to be refused a visa would be unlikely to apply in the first place.

“When it was issued the State Department actually provided a briefing for the higher education associations about how they were planning to use the presidential proclamation,” Sarah Spreitzer, assistant vice president and chief of staff, government relations at American Council on Education told The PIE.

“One of the things that they said is that they were really trying to very narrowly define it, to address a specific national security concern. They didn’t want it to impact a broad swathe of graduate students, or undergraduate students, coming from China.

“They were really trying to very narrowly define it, to address a specific national security concern”

“So, when the Biden administration took office, it had been in place for a year or two, and we received another briefing from the State Department,” Spreitzer continued.

Staff from the department said that for the time they were planning on keeping the proclamation in place and that based on the data that they had, it is impacting less than one percent of the graduate students who are applying for visas to come to the US.

Spreitzer said that the previous administration was “extremely vocal” when this was put in place, saying they were taking action to protect against bad actors.

“I think it was picked up a lot in the Chinese press and in some cases students who saw their visas denied, may have assumed that it was under this presidential proclamation, when perhaps it was for a different reason,” she added.

Spreitzer noted that the State Department continues to tell ACE that the proclamation is impacting a “very small number” of graduate students.

She also explained that the Biden administration has allowed national security waivers or national interest waivers, so it is up to the consulate if they do want to waive the presidential proclamation, based on a national need.

“What we understand from the State Department is that it is only impacting graduate students, so it is not meant to impact undergraduate students. It’s only impacting graduate students in very specific STEM fields – and then only if they have ties to certain organisations,” Spreitzer said.

“I think it was picked up a lot in the Chinese press”

“The problem is that the State Department will not share with us the list of STEM fields or the list of organisations that they are concerned with, because they have said that is a national security issue.

“I think it would be a lot easier for institutions and students if they understood that these are the fields and organisations that they are concerned with, but I haven’t had a classified briefing on the issue, so I do not know what the national security concerns are,” she added.

Despite the reports of Chinese students still being denied data from IDP Connect shows that their interest in the US as a study destination has not been significantly harmed.

“Our digital demand data, which tracks trends in student search behaviour around the world, suggests that at the early stages of the decision making journey, interest in the USA from Chinese students is strong,” IDP Connect’s CEO, Simon Emmett told The PIE.

“According to this data, the USA is the most popular destination for Chinese students and over the last month has seen increased interest.”

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