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State Department Extends Duration of Certain Visas for Chinese Visitors to U.S.

The_Great_Wall_of_China_at_Jinshanling.jpgThe U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced in late 2014 that it would extend the validity of certain nonimmigrant visas for nationals of the People’s Republic of China (“China”) under a new reciprocity agreement with that country. The agreement significantly extends the validity of visas for tourists, business visitors, students, and exchange visitors. Chinese tourism has become a substantial factor in the global marketplace. Nearly two million Chinese nationals visited the U.S. in 2013, and the number of Chinese visitors to the New York City area has nearly tripled in recent years. DOS’s announcement demonstrates how the government can adjust visa and immigration regulations to promote relationships with other countries.

Reciprocity” is an important principle in U.S. visa policy. It simply means that two countries’ visa requirements for the citizens of the other country match each other. The countries may lift restrictions against each other, or they may impose additional restrictions. The U.S. has reciprocity agreements with numerous countries around the world.

In its press release announcing the new reciprocity agreement with China, the White House stated that about 1.8 million Chinese nationals visited the U.S. in 2013, adding $21.1 billion to the economy. This number only constitutes about two percent of Chinese travelers that year, although they reportedly rank the U.S. as their top choice for a destination. The New York Times reports that the number of Chinese tourists visiting New York City increased by 182 percent between 2010 and 2013. Many Chinese tourists are staying in New Jersey hotels during their vacations, so increasing tourism could benefit both New York City and Northern New Jersey.

Tourism is an enormous draw for people from China, but additionally nearly 30 percent of nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the U.S. are from China. Improvements to visa policies, the White House claims, could increase the number of visitors to 7.3 million in the next six years.

The new reciprocity agreement increases the length of B visas, which allow people to come to the U.S. as tourists or on short-term business trips, to 10 years, and it allows visa holders to make multiple trips. Some nonimmigrant visas are single- or double-entry, meaning that once a visa holder uses it, he or she may not use it to enter the U.S. a second (or third) time. A multiple-entry visa allows re-entry as long as it remains valid and the visa holder has not exceeded his or her authorized length of stay in the country.

Student and exchange visitor visas are valid for five years under the reciprocity agreement. Student visas include F visas, which are available to high school, college, and graduate students, and M visas for students in vocational programs. J visas are available to participants in various exchange programs. These may include programs for students, professors, and researchers as well as participants in summer work programs, au pairs, camp counselors, and certain government visitors.

The reciprocity agreement does not change the eligibility requirements for any of these visas, which are set by statute, nor does it affect the filing fee paid to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It does not affect nonimmigrant worker visas, such as H-1B and L-1 visas, in any way.

Immigration lawyer Samuel C. Berger represents individuals who wish to immigrate to the New York and New Jersey areas through family or employment, people who want to bring a loved one here, and employers who want to hire foreign workers. To schedule a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration advocate, contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Government, H-1B Temporary Work Visa Holders Fight Against Unlawful Practices by Employers, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 14, 2015
Federal Government Begins Allowing Electronic Travel Documents for Nonimmigrant Visitors, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 23, 2014
USCIS Increases Investigations of L-1 Visa Holders and Employers, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 25, 2014
Photo credit: By Severin.stalder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.