U.S. and China agree on visa extension

By Camille Murray

Chinese international students at the University will no longer have to renew their visas each year thanks to a recently established reciprocal agreement made between the U.S. and China to extend the duration of visas for business travelers, tourists and students.

Based on the agreement, visas for students have been extended from one year to a maximum of five years. Business and tourist visas have been extended to ten years. The changes officially took effect on Nov. 12.

The policy change is sure to affect many students at the University, where Chinese students make up about 11.2 percent of the total student population.

“They’re here in a four-year program,” said Julie Misa, director of International Student and Scholar Services. “They may have needed to extend their visa as many as four times during that period. Now the visa is valid for five years, so that makes it much easier for our students to travel outside of the United States and come back again.”

According to the U.S. Department of State, the visa extension has several advantages for both countries. Citizens from both the U.S. and China who travel frequently between the countries will benefit by not needing to apply and pay application fees every year; businesses and tourism will profit from increased travel, investment and business development opportunities; and student and exchange visitors will be able to return to their home countries more easily.

“I’ve been here for three years and each year I went back home, I had to reschedule appointments to get my visa,” said Jiahao Xing, a Chinese international student and freshman in LAS. “So, it’s kind of messy; it’s a lot of work to do.”

Misa said she believes the visa extension will generally make international travel much easier for students, particularly when international students want to return home for holiday breaks or study abroad. 

Chinese students make up the largest population of international students at the University at 49.6 percent. 

The University, Misa said, has “strong ties with China in many different ways,” including exchange agreements, research efforts and the many Chinese students and scholars present on campus.

Yue Liu, a freshman Chinese international student in ACES, agreed that the University has a significant presence back in his home country.

“This University has a really good reputation in China,” Liu said. He added that the University is especially known for its College of Engineering, which was part of his reason for choosing to attend school here.

Both Liu and Xing believe that the new visa extension will save international students from China a lot of time, and may even be the extra push some students need to make the decision to study abroad.

“I think it’ll definitely encourage more international students to come to the United States,” Xing said. “Because it’s easier and less trouble to do.”

Camille can be reached at cmurra24

@dailyillini.com.