May 30, 2020 Immigration Law

US Suspends Visas for Certain Chinese Graduate Students and Researchers

On May 29, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending the issuance of F (student) and J (exchange visitor) visas for certain Chinese applicants whom the US government believes may pass sensitive information to the Chinese military. The proclamation asserts – without providing any supporting evidence – that China has been co-opting certain Chinese graduate students and researchers to operate as “non-traditional collectors of intellectual property,” in part to strengthen China’s military.

The proclamation, which takes effect at noon (eastern) on Monday, June 1, prohibits F or J visa issuance to any Chinese graduate student or researcher who “either receives funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of, or has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of, an entity in the [People’s Republic of China (PRC)] that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy.’” The proclamation does not indicate how these alleged operatives have been or will be identified or differentiated from other Chinese graduate students and researchers.

Since visas are issued at US embassies and consulates abroad, the proclamation only impacts Chinese applicants who are currently outside the US or will need to leave the US to apply for a new F or J visa. However, the proclamation directs the Secretary of State to consider whether Chinese nationals who are currently in the US on F and J visas and who meet the criteria above should have their visas revoked. The proclamation further provides that within 60 days of its enactment, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security must review nonimmigrant (temporary) visa and immigrant (permanent or green card) programs to determine whether any additional presidential action is needed to “mitigate the risk posed by the PRC’s acquisition of sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property.”

Several categories of visa applicants are exempt from the proclamation, including undergraduate students, lawful permanent residents, spouses of US citizens and lawful permanent residents, members of the US Armed Forces and their spouses and children, and any applicant “who is studying or conducting research in a field involving information that would not contribute to the PRC’s military civil fusion strategy, as determined by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security,” among other categories.

We will update you as additional information becomes available.