Aiming to protect against U.S. intellectual property theft, the Trump administration is closely scrutinizing visa applications and shortening visa validity periods for some Chinese citizens.
Under the new policy, which began last week, U.S. consular officers will use their discretion on a case-by-case basis to limit how long visas for Chinese students and working professionals are valid. While consular officers already possess the ability to set visa expiration dates, they usually issue visas for the maximum duration possible.
Chinese graduate students on student visas in fields, such as aviation, robotics, engineering, science, and high-tech manufacturing, could be limited to one-year visas. Previously, a student visa typically lasts for the duration of the degree program plus 60 days after the program ends. Chinese professionals also face shorter visa periods. In addition, Chinese professionals will need special permission from the U.S. if they work in research or management at any company the U.S. considers “requiring higher scrutiny,” according to the Associated Press.
The State Department, which oversees consular visa processing, has not released details about the new policy. Still, students on F-1 visas who apply OPT Optional Practical Training or STEM OPT Extension in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math will likely be affected as well.
Most international students obtain either an F-1 visa to study at a U.S. university or an M-1 visa for vocational or technical training at a U.S. community or junior college. Typically, a student visa lasts for the duration of the degree or training program. The length of stay is called the student’s “status.”
When an international student arrives at the border or airport, a customs officer tells the student how long she or he can stay in the U.S. The officer stamps the student’s passport with an I-94 stamp—also known as a “D/S” (“Duration of Status”)—which is as long as you have valid student status.
Under the new policy, the Alcorn Immigration Law team advises student clients to remain in the U.S. during their one-year visa period. That means not returning home for holidays or summer break. Students who come to the U.S. to study should understand that travel in the age of Trump is risky.
I recently met a woman from Hong Kong who told me she went home for a vacation. When she reapplied for a visa, the consular officer denied her. He said she simply didn’t “need” to return to her university for her junior year—and that she should stay home and study somewhere else. She faced having to drop out of her university program because of this arbitrary decision.
Make Staying Easier—Not Harder
Rather than shutting the door, the U.S. should be opening it wide to students and researchers. The U.S needs the best and brightest from around the globe.
Nearly one-third of the 1 million foreign nationals enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities are from China, according to Bloomberg. Chinese students receive 10 percent of all doctorate degrees awarded in the U.S—most of them in science and engineering. About 80 percent of these students remain in the U.S. to work after earning their doctorates.
Moreover, immigrants and the children of immigrants in the U.S. are responsible for creating some of the most successful companies. And those companies employ thousands of Americans. According to one report, immigrants are responsible for creating more than half of the privately-held startups in the U.S. valued at $1 billion or more. In addition, an immigrant or child of an immigrant founded or co-founded 43 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.
We Can Help
The Alcorn Immigration Law team supports immigration for innovation by assisting investors, founders, talent, and families obtain visas, green cards, and citizenship. Contact us if we can help you, an employee or a loved one. We can help individuals whether they are inside or outside of the U.S.