The Biden government said Tuesday it had eased restrictions on Chinese and other students traveling to the US this fall and may have helped colleges whose enrollments fell during the coronavirus pandemic.
The US State Department said it would extend its national interest exemptions to students and academics from around the world starting August 1. In March it made the change for European students.
According to the International Education Exchange (IEE), around 372,000 Chinese made up 35% of international students in the US in the 2019-20 school year, almost twice as many as the second-highest students from India.
According to the National Student Clearinghouse, tertiary enrollments fell 2.5% in the fall of 2020, almost twice as much as in the fall of 2019.
In January 2020, then-President Donald Trump banned almost all non-US citizens who were in China from entering the US.
“I’m really glad that the Biden administration is restoring at least some level of normalcy after being disrupted by the pandemic and Trump’s dire policies,” said Zhang, 23.
The Beijing native said he plans to do a graduate degree at the University of California at Berkeley.
The American Council on Education (ACE) had urged President Joe Biden’s administration to act swiftly and in a letter last month stated that it could “send a message of welcome to current and future international students that can help promote the United States Restore destination choice and support major economic activity as the US economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. “
“This is a positive move by the United States,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Wednesday.
“We hope the US can make reasonable arrangements for Chinese personnel to move to the US and create favorable conditions for resumption of personnel exchanges.”
It is still unclear whether US colleges or the US government will recognize vaccinations given by Chinese students that have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Some U.S. schools require students to be fully vaccinated before classes resume.
Another major issue was the requirement that first-time student visa applicants conduct face-to-face interviews with US embassies and consulates. The State Department said Tuesday it “continues to seek ways to process more visa applications, in line with science-based guidelines from health authorities.”
ACE cited a study that found that the economic benefits of international students had declined by around $ 2 billion to around $ 39 billion in the 2019-20 academic year.
In the 2019 school year, Chinese students brought an estimated $ 16 billion in benefits to the United States, the IEE report said.
Jessica Yuan, 20, a student at the University of Southern California, said she hoped to return before mid-August.
“I’m really looking forward to going back and meeting everyone,” said the engineering major.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year!”
($ 1 = 6.4860 Chinese yuan renminbi)