At a time of increased diplomatic tension between the U.S. and China, Chinese officials issued two warnings to their citizens over the past two days about problems they may encounter when studying and traveling in the U.S.
On Monday, China’s Ministry of Education issued a warning to Chinese students regarding visa delays and denials for students interested in studying abroad in U.S. institutions.
“For some time, some of the visas for Chinese students studying in the United States have been restricted,” the ministry said. “The visa review period has been extended, the validity period has been shortened and the refusal rate has increased.”
This was followed by a warning on Tuesday from China’s foreign ministry, cautioning Chinese citizens traveling to the U.S. to raise their safety awareness in regards to heightened scrutiny from U.S. law enforcement such as immigration checks and home interviews.
These advisories come amid an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, and heavy scrutiny from the Trump Administration surrounding Chinese technology companies such as Huawei, which U.S. companies were banned from doing business with last month.
In the 2017-2018 academic year, China sent approximately 363,000 students to study in American postsecondary institutions, making up a third of all international students in the U.S. according to data from the Institute of International Education. These students represent a large revenue source for U.S. universities since they commonly pay full-price for tuition, and these warnings may threaten school funding sources in the coming years.
Last year, the U.S. also shortened the duration of visas granted to graduate students coming to study in STEM fields, issuing one-year visas instead of the previous five-year terms. Since China represents a large talent pool for STEM-related research advancements, educators have voiced concerns that these restrictions may impede research and development at many institutions around the country.
In the meantime, the State Department has denied that the visa restrictions are part of a larger diplomatic campaign against China.
“The United States rejects the unfounded allegation of a widespread and baseless campaign to deny Chinese visas,” an State Department official said in an email. “We welcome Chinese students and scholars to the United States to conduct legitimate academic activities.”