State Department: US and China To Extend Visas for Short-term Business Travelers, Tourists, and Students

by Joseph McKeown

The United States and the People’s Republic of China reciprocally increased the validity of short-term business, tourist, and student visas effective November 12, a move which coincided with President Obama's trip to China.

Secretary John Kerry, in remarks at the US Embassy in Beijing, said that with this change the US and China are "making an important investment in our relationship" which will "pay huge dividends for American and Chinese citizens, and it will strengthen both of our economies."

Chinese applicants may now be issued multiple-entry B visas for up to ten years—the longest visa validity possible under US law—for business and tourist travel, and Chinese students and exchange visitors who qualify are now eligible for F, M, or J-category multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years or the length of the school program.

In turn, US citizens are now eligible for multiple-entry, short-term business and tourist visas valid for up to ten years, while US students may receive student residency permits valid up to five years, depending on the length of the educational program.

The State Department says that in addition to the convenience and decreased cost for travelers, these visa changes will foster more international travel and exchange, enhance mutual understanding between China and the US, and increase the ease of trade and investment.

Since more nonimmigrant visas are processed in China than in any other country (with more than 1.95 million applications for Chinese nationals in fiscal year 2014) and student and exchange visitor visas issued to Chinese applicants represent thirty percent of all such visas issued globally, these changes will very likely have a significant impact for many Chinese nationals, not to mention frequent US travelers to China.

Business and tourist visa eligibility requirements as well as student visa requirements remain unchanged. For those curious, the State Department publishes visa reciprocity rules and tables for China and other countries.

With these visa changes, many anticipate more Chinese tourists to the US—at least in California, where Chinese nationals spent $2 billion last year—and possible long delays in visa processing at US Embassies or Consulates in China or other consular posts issuing visas to Chinese nationals.