University of Iowa

Visa Restrictions for Certain Students from China

Updated June 7, 2018

Recent news articles have discussed rumors regarding plans of the U.S. Department of State to enact changes to the duration of visas issued to certain students from China.

As of today, June 7, ISSS still is unable to locate any official government statements or guidance about this potential change.

Therefore we can only conjecture based on what we have seen reported in news sources. These articles may or may not be accurate, the policies may or may not be put in place.  We will update this site as more information becomes available.  Our current information is based on reports initially published by the Associated Press.  Most recently, other articles focusing on discussions during a U.S. Senate subcommittee meeting mention this as well, but this still cannot be considered official guidance.

 

What is Changing?

According to the AP article, the following changes could begin to occur for certain visa applicants from China starting on June 11, 2018:

  • graduate student visa applicants from China studying in certain fields may have their visas limited to one year instead of five
  • examples of fields of study that may potentially be impacted include "robotics, aviation and high-tech manufacturing"
  • the article references fields of study that relate to the Chinese government's "Made in China" 2025 manufacturing plan
  • "Chinese citizens seeking visas will need special clearance from multiple U.S. agencies if they work as researchers or managers for companies on a U.S. Commerce Department list of entities requiring higher scrutiny. Those clearances are expected to take months for each visa application, the official said."

 

When Will We Get More Information?

There is no way to tell.  It is possible an official statement could be released by the Department of State. If this happens ISSS will update the information here.

It is possible no statement will be released but the policies will begin to be followed internally.  We may then only learn this has happened once we and other schools begin to hear from student visa applicants who encounter the restrictions.

 

How Might This Impact Me? What Concerns Does ISSS Have?

Remember at this point in time this is all conjecutre.  However, here are a few reminders about the role of the visa and how it relates to your status in the U.S.:

  • Remember the visa is just the "ticket in" to the U.S.  This is not referring to the I-20/DS-2019, which will still be issued for the normal period of time for a graduate program (usually 2 years for most Master's programs, and 5 years for most Ph.D. programs, with the ability to extend still available as normal).
  • The visa can expire while you are in the U.S. engaged in your program of study, and it WILL NOT impact your legal status.  That's what the I-20/DS-2019 is for, along with your valid passport and your I-94 entry record.  As long as you stay inside the U.S. and you are maintaining the terms of your F-1 or J-1 status, your visa can expire.
  • Remember that until a few years ago, all students from China received one-year student visas (before that, there was a time where it was only six months!).  It does not need to be a barrier for most students, but as students who dealt with those short visas could attest, it definitely can require advanced planning and sufficient time, which not everyone will have.
  • If you need to leave the U.S. after the one-year visa has expired, such as for times when you want to go home to visit family, attend an international conference, or conduct research abroad, THEN you will need to make arrangements to apply for a new visa before you can return.  This is where the policy can cause difficulties for some students:
    • Travel home for short periods of time may be difficult or not possible if there will not be enough time to apply for a new visa before you need to be back for the next semester.  This means winter break, Thanksgiving, and spring break travel may need to be avoided for some students whose visas would be expired.
    • If background security checks need to be performed for new visa applications, this will add further wait time for students.
    • Travel to countries other than China could be complicated - U.S. consulates are not always willing to accept new visa applications from people who are not citizens of the country in which the consulate is located.  For example, a Chinese grad student who goes to a conference in France and needs to obtain a new F-1 visa to return to the U.S. could see her visa application denied by the U.S. consulate in Paris, because she is not a citizen of France.  In such cases, the only option for some students may be to return to China and apply for the new visa at a U.S. consulate there, which will add more time to the process.
  • A greater concern to us is the statement that "Chinese citizens seeking visas will need special clearance from multiple U.S. agencies if they work as researchers or managers for companies on a U.S. Commerce Department list of entities requiring higher scrutiny. Those clearances are expected to take months for each visa application, the official said."  Without knowing exactly what this means, this does cause us concern about whether this could impact some of our incoming J-1 scholars from China who would conduct research here at the University of Iowa.  We also would want to know whether this would impact graduate students being offered a research assistantship.
  • Would those who currently hold valid five-year visas be able to continue using them until they expire, or could they be canceled and those students have to apply for new one-year visas the next time they leave the U.S.?
  • Will this ever impact undergraduate students or students who come to study in an intensive English program?
  • Will other countries ever be added to this policy?