US and China extend student visas

13, November, 2014

The US and China have reciprocally agreed to extend the validity of student, business and tourism visas in a deal announced by US President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Beijing this week.

President Xi Jinping of China and US President Barack Obama in an official welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Qualified Chinese students and exchange visitors and dependents qualifying for the F (full-time study), M (vocational) or J (exchange) categories are now eligible for multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years or the full length of their programme.

Under the new bilateral arrangements, US citizens meeting the student visa category criteria will be able to receive student residency permits valid for up to five years, depending on the length of their study programme.

Both countries have reciprocally agreed to issue multiple-entry visas valid for up to ten years in business and tourism categories, the longest duration possible under current US law.

A statement issued by the US Department of State said, “Until now, many Chinese students who left the United States for short visits abroad were required to apply for new visas. Under the new arrangement, Chinese students will find it easier and more convenient to return home because in many cases they will not be required to obtain new visas prior to returning to the United States to study.”

“The United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China,” said President Obama, announcing the new visa agreement at the Apec summit.  

“We compete for business, but we also seek to cooperate on a broad range of shared challenges and shared opportunities,” said President Obama. “If China and the United States can work together, the world benefits.”

According to the Department of State, 316,000 student and exchange visitor applications from China were processed in FY2014, a 12 per cent increase over the previous year. Student and exchange visas account for 16 per cent of all US visas issued in China, and China represents 30 per cent of all US student and exchange visa issued worldwide. The changes in visa validity do not affect eligibility criteria or visa processing fees.

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