Visa restriction on Chinese students creates a no-win situation

World Today

The State Department has said that the Trump administration plans to shorten the length of some visas issued to Chinese citizens, especially students.

The Associated Press reported Chinese graduate students studying robotics, aviation or hi-tech manufacturing would be limited to one-year visas.

CGTN’s Mark Niu talked to Chinese students to hear their concerns.

At San Jose State University’s Robotics, Sensor and Machines Laboratory, experimentation lurks around every corner.

The lab’s director, China-born Professor Winncy Du, said research can be sensitive for joint government projects, but she said those cases are rare.

She thinks tightening controls on visas for Chinese engineering students is an overreaction.

“If they limit the visas, we actually limit the source for professors to get good students,” said Du. “For American students, they are more hands-on and can figure out things, more creative. But Chinese students — theoretical derivation and mathematical modeling — they are really strong.”

Mechanical engineering student Cui Jinhao came to San Jose State in 2015, then in 2016 he went home, which required him to renew his U.S. visa.

For undisclosed reasons, he got rejected, so he spent another three weeks nervously re-applying before getting approved for a five-year visa—something passed under the Obama administration.

He said reverting to one-year visas will discourage many Chinese students from applying.

“It puts loads of stress on the students, but also for the family,” said Cui. “Some students, unfortunately, maybe didn’t get renewed the second time. They had to do a third time, the fifth time, eventually some people are going to break.”

Computer engineering student Li Yongming said allegations that Chinese students steal tech secrets are just rumors, and that many students like himself are here to learn and create a better life for themselves.

“Canada, Australia, offer more flexible visa time and also have more flexible rules about visa and studying, immigration,” said Li. “So, yeah, it will definitely have some effect.”

Software engineering student, Liu Jiahao said when Chinese students look elsewhere, American universities will lose.

“Because tuition fees for the international – for the international students – the tuition fee is higher than the local students,” said Liu.

According to the trade association – the Silicon Valley Leadership Group – U.S. companies need to fill 125-thousand computer science-related jobs every year. U.S. universities only produce 50-thousand graduates in that field each year and half of those are foreign-born.

“Certainly when there is a founded complaint of someone engaging in intellectual property theft, certainly that’s the time to address that issue,” said Peter Leroe-Muñoz, V.P. of Tech & Innovation at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “But just as a blanket statement, it doesn’t make sense to our economy and it doesn’t make sense to a just a generalized sense of fairness to punish people simply based on the country of origin where they are from.”

Last year the number of U.S. visas issued to Chinese students fell 24-percent, though the five-year visa program – enabling students to re-new less frequently – contributed to the drop.