On November 10, 2014, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that starting November 12, 2014, the United States and the People’s Republic of China will reciprocally increase the validity of short-term business and tourist visas and student and exchange visas issued to each other’s citizens.
Chinese applicants who qualify for a B-category nonimmigrant visas (NIV) may now be issued multiple-entry visas for up to 10 years for business and tourist travel. Qualified Chinese students and exchange visitors, and their dependents who qualify for F, M, or J-category visas, are now eligible for multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years or the length of their program. U.S. citizens eligible for Chinese short term business and tourist visas should also receive multiple-entry visas valid for up to 10 years, while qualified U.S. students may receive student residency permits valid up to five years, depending on the length of their educational program.
DOS expects that the reciprocal extension of visa validity to 10 years for short-term travel between China and the United States will increase travel and exchanges, enhance mutual understanding between the two countries, and benefit both countries’ economies by increasing the ease of trade and investment. Ten years is the longest visa validity possible under U.S. law.
DOS anticipates that this new arrangement will be more convenient and less costly for travelers. Prior to this, Chinese and American business travelers and tourists had to apply annually, if visiting the United States or China each year. 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.
DOS also shared a number of interesting facts regarding U.S.-China immigration relations, including:
- More U.S. NIVs are processed in China than in any other country; applications processed in China represent more than 14 percent of all U.S. NIV applications worldwide.
- More than 1.95 million U.S. NIV applications were processed for Chinese nationals in fiscal year 2014.
- Wait times for interview appointments in China have averaged less than one week at each post in Mission China for the last two years.
- Due to efficient processing, most applicants are able to enter the Embassy or Consulate, complete their interview, and depart in less than an hour.
- The vast majority of foreign investment activities in the United States can be performed on a standard business/tourist (B1/B2) visa.
- Chinese nationals comprise the largest group of foreign students in the United States.
- Mission China processed more than 316,000 student and exchange visitor visa applications in FY2014, a 12 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
- Student visas issued to Chinese nationals accounted for 16 percent of all types of U.S. visas issued in China. Student and exchange visitor visas issued to Chinese applicants represent 30 percent of all such visas issued worldwide.
- Changes in visa validity will not affect visa eligibility criteria, and the basic visa processing fee remains unchanged at the current rate of $160.