The University of Iowa

China and the U.S. extend visa duration

November 17th, 2014

By Michael Kadrie, The Daily Iowan

UI senior Ella Feng, who is from China, said she normally returns home once a year in the summer. Because of the length of the break, she said, she never had a problem getting her visa renewed, but the process continued to be frustrating.

But recently extended visa durations will allow Chinese students such as Feng to visit home without worrying about clearing bureaucratic hurdles.

Feng said she thinks the extension is great because it will save future students time and money, although she wished it had come sooner in her college career.

“As soon as I got the news [of the visa extension] I was angry, because it has taken so long,” she said.

The United States and Chinese governments have agreed to increase visa lengths for business, tourism, and students.

Student and student exchange visas were extended from the previous one-year limit to five years. Business and tourism visas increased to a length of 10 years.

“This is a welcome change in visa policy,” said Jill Welch, deputy executive director for public policy for NAFSA: Association of International Educators. “Now, international students and educators will be able to travel more freely between the United States and China without bureaucratic constraints that waste government time and resources.”

Students from China make up the vast majority of University of Iowa’s community of international scholars.

In 2014, 2,558 international students out of 4,360 hailed from China.

The UI Study Abroad Program involved 946 students in 2012, of which 37 choose China as their destination.

Lee Seedorff, senior associate director of International Student and Scholar Services, said visas can be confusing to the international and study-abroad students who depend on them.

Visas have nothing to do with legal status, only ensuring legal entry into whichever country issued them. Compounding the confusion are varying visa durations dependent on the countries involved.

Seedorff said international students sometimes face delays in acquiring new visas. These delays can force students to arrive late to the semester, but she said those instances are rare.

Students need to appear at a consulate, which often times is not located anywhere near the areas they are visiting, in order to acquire or renew a visa. Traveling those distances can be difficult if students are only returning home for a short amount of time.

Zach Smith, a UI Study Abroad adviser, said he did not think this extension would end up affecting too many of the program’s students.

“We aren’t sending people overseas for long amounts of time,” he said.

Smith said typically three-fourths of students are only going for a semester or summer, with some staying for as long as a year.

He said it is difficult to stay any longer, because students must complete a certain amount of their coursework on-campus at the UI.

However, Seedorf said, it will be beneficial for international students wishing to travel home.

“It’ll make it a lot easier for people to go and visit family and not worry about rushing to renew visas,” Seedorff said.