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US-China extend visa validation for students, visitors

Starting today, Chinese visitors and students to the US will be granted visas valid for up to 10 years after US President Barack Obama announced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing this week an agreement between the two countries that aims to strengthen economic and “people-to-people” ties.

Visas for Chinese students and their dependents will now be valid for five years. Photo: © 2014 UMass Amherst IPO

China accounts for 28% of all foreign students and exchange visitors in the United States

The agreement will see the validity of short-term tourist and business visas extended from one to 10 years and student and exchange visas from one to five years for citizens from both countries.

Education professionals in both the US and China welcome the move saying it will facilitate education exchange between the countries for students, scholars and their families.

Until now, students have been required to renew their visas annually through scheduled consular appointments forcing them to travel home every 12 months.

In addition to creating convenient visa policy, Ken Reade, Director of International Student & Scholar Services in the International Programs Office at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said the announcement will reduce “numerous delays” Chinese students and scholars encounter as a result of background security checks during each consular process.

“Security clearance delays have caused enormous difficulties over the years”

“Such security clearance delays have caused enormous difficulties over the years, resulting in countless instances of late arrivals to campus, missed coursework, and postponed and delayed research activities,” he told The PIE News.

He added that a five year visa duration will improve mobility for Chinese students and scholars who travel to third countries beyond the United States for international study, research and professional academic opportunities.

According to Tao Sun, COO of New Oriental Vision Overseas Consulting, more fluid exchange between the countries could also encourage current Chinese students to pursue further studies in the US.

“We see the extension of the student visa from one year to five years as a catalyst for more Chinese students, especially those who are currently studying abroad in the US, to increase their communication and interaction between the two countries, reducing the complexity and barriers for Chinese students as they consider which country to remain in upon graduation,” he told The PIE News.

New Oriental Vision Overseas Consulting is part of New Oriental, the largest private education provider in China, and sends 10,000 Chinese students a year to study in US high schools, undergraduate and graduate programmes.

Sun added that the 10 year visa validation for visitors– the longest validity possible under US law– creates an incentive for Chinese parents to travel to the US to visit campuses as Chinese families increasingly look to send their children to the US at a younger age.

“We see it certainly affecting and influencing this target group,” he said. “Families will have more flexibility to travel the US early on as they make educational decisions, subsequently to visit their children, and possibly to be in the US when their children are in school.

“This provides the opportunity for more Chinese families to be more attuned to the U.S., giving them more confidence and transparency in the decision-making process”

“Overall, this provides the opportunity for more Chinese families to be more attuned to the US, giving them more confidence and transparency in the decision-making process,” he commented.

In 2013, there were 236,000 Chinese students studying at higher education institutions in the United States.

According to The White House, China accounts for 28% of all foreign students and exchange visitors in the United States. In 2013, Chinese students in the US spent US$8 billion, an increase of almost 24% on the previous year.

The US government hopes the action will create enough demand for “hundreds of thousands” of additional jobs and prepare the country for the growing volume of Chinese travellers who consistently rank the US as their top travel destination.

“A competitive visa policy will help us meet projections that suggest as many as 7.3 million Chinese travelers will come to the United States by 2021, contributing nearly $85 billion a year to the economy and supporting up to 440,000 US jobs,” said a White House statement.

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