New visa limitations could put Chinese graduate student enrollment at risk

By Jessica Bursztynsky, Staff Writer

The Trump administration will begin imposing limits on some Chinese visas starting Monday, which could potentially put University research at risk.

The plan, which is an effort to counter intellectual property theft, asks U.S. embassies and consular offices to shorten the length of visas for Chinese graduate students in certain STEM fields. Instead of granting the maximum five years, visas could be granted for just one year of validity.

The fields include avionics, robotics and high-tech manufacturing, according to an Associated Press report.

And while most visas of this kind are granted for the full five years, a State Department official said they have the option to review each applicant on a “case-by-case basis.”

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications; every prospective traveler to the United States undergoes extensive security screening.  We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes and to support legitimate travel and immigration to the United States while protecting U.S. citizens and U.S. national interests,” said a State Department official in an email to The Daily Illini.

But the lengthy application process and possible need to reapply for additional visas could deter some international students from enrolling in programs. As of the fall 2017 semester, 5,845 Chinese students and professionals were at the University.

“Anything that makes higher education in the United States less competitive and less attractive is something we do not want to have occur,” said Graduate College Dean Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko. “International enrollments are so important to excellence at the University of Illinois because they create a more diverse community and really enable us to provide an educational experience that’s reflective of what our students need.”

While the regulations may be “problematic,” Chodzko-Zajko said he believes the University’s reputation can help combat any concerns of enrolling.

“We are one of the leading STEM education universities in the world and clearly we want to remain as competitive as we can be and that’s what we strive to do. I believe that students from around the world will continue to look at the value proposition at the University of Illinois,” he said.

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