In addition to the COVID-19-related travel restrictions and consular closures, Chinese graduate students and post-doctoral researchers will now face another hurdle in coming to the U.S. As of noon (EDT) on June 1, 2020, President Donald Trump’s “Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China” became effective.
The Proclamation bans the entry on F or J visas of PRC nationals who wish to study or conduct research if they receive funding from, are currently employed or study at or have in the past conducted research on behalf of an entity in the PRC “that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy.’” This is defined as “actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities,” i.e., military ties.
The ban expressly exempts Chinese undergraduate students and provides other exemptions, including for spouses of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their immediate family members.
It is not clear how broadly the new ban will be interpreted, but the Proclamation states that the covered individuals will be identified by the Department of State based upon recommendations from the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
The Proclamation also calls upon the Secretary of State to consider whether Chinese nationals currently in the U.S. on F or J visas should have those visas revoked to “mitigate the risk posed by the PRC’s acquisition of sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property.”
Reportedly, just days before issuance of the Proclamation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was speaking to President Trump about cancelling the visas of some Chinese nationals with ties to China’s military currently in the U.S..
In Congress, Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) unveiled legislation (SECURE CAMPUS Act) that would codify the Proclamation. Companion legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman David Kustoff (R-Tenn.). The bill, aimed at safeguarding the nation’s security, would prohibit issuance of visas to Chinese nationals who want to do graduate or post-graduate study or research in the U.S. in any STEM fields. It does not include prospective students from Hong Kong or Taiwan.
Colleges and universities are concerned about the effects on international cooperation in education and research, as well as university finances. According to Reuters, “Some 360,000 Chinese nationals who attend U.S. schools annually generate economic activity of about $14 billion, largely from tuitions and other fees.”