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Restrictions on Chinese Students entering the U.S. and Revisions to Green Card Legislation

Updated: Jun 02, 2020  | Tags: USA Visa Restrictions, COVID-19, Green Card

On June 1st, 2020, a ban went into effect on select categories of Chinese students from entering the United States. However, the ban does not apply to undergraduate students from China. President Trump’s proclamation bars Chinese postgraduate students and doctoral researchers associated with organizations supporting the Chinese MCF (military-civil fusion) strategy from entering the United States. The ban applies to those wishing to enter on both J or F non-immigrant visas. 

In the proclamation, President Trump stated that the PRC (the People's Republic of China) is carrying out a well-resourced and wide-ranging campaign to acquire US intellectual property and sensitive technologies, in order to enhance the capability and modernization of its military forces. He claimed that Chinese authorities employ some post-graduate Chinese students to acquire sensitive intellectual and technological property. Their entry into the United States would, therefore, be detrimental to security and the national interest. 

Will the new ban apply to Chinese students who have already entered the US?

President Trump has directed the US State Department to consider whether the visas of Chinese post-grad students who have already entered the country with F or J non-immigrant visas should be canceled.

There are over 350,000 Chinese students currently studying in the United States. So far, the educational sector has been critical of the proclamation. Academics are asking how it will be possible for institutions to identify which students have been associated with the Chinese army. The State Department has not yet clarified who will be responsible for this task.

Who will not be affected by President Trump's new immigration restrictions?

The new restrictions do not apply to Chinese undergraduate students. It also exempts students who are studying subjects in sectors that the Department of Justice, the DHSS (Department of Homeland Security), and the State Department have decided are not relevant to the Chinese MCF strategy.

Also exempted from the ruling are holders of US green cards (legal permanent residents) and their spouses, as well as foreign nationals whose entry into the country would promote US interests, and foreign nationals serving in the United States military.

The OPT program allows international students to work in the United States for one year after completing their degree. STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math) students are permitted to stay for a further two-year period, so they have permission to stay for additional work experience for three years in total. Around 25,000 Chinese students are currently authorized to do so.

While the ruling is approved by many senators including Marsha Blackburn and Tom Cotton, immigration lawyers say the legality of the ban may well be tested in the courts and is certain to escalate the President’s Cold War with PRC.

Congress introduces legislation to award Green Cards to foreign physicians and nurses during COVID-19

With 40,000 green cards currently going unused, US Congress has introduced the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, legislation that would give permanent residency to foreign-born doctors and nurses. This would fill a gap in the US healthcare sector which has been badly hit by staff shortages during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Act would allow thousands of Green Cards that have previously been approved but are unused to be recaptured and awarded to medical professionals, allowing them to live and work in the United States permanently.

Amongst those most likely to benefit are thousands of Indian-born nurses and physicians, who are currently employed in the United States on J2 or H-1B visas. These non-immigrant visas allow US employers to hire foreign workers in sectors that require professional or technical expertise, such as medicine, engineering, and IT. Every year, American companies use these visas to employ thousands of workers, notable from China and India.

Why is the Green Card legislation being introduced now?

Officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, a Green Card grants permanent legal residency to its holder. With the second wave of COVID-19 predicted to hit the country in the fall, Congress and the Senate are introducing the Green Card legislation in order to address the problem of understaffing in hospitals all over the United States.

The problem is particularly critical in rural states such as Iowa. The American Medical Association (AMA) welcomed the proposal, saying that it would relieve the burden on frontline medics, who are putting their lives at risk in hospitals with inadequate staffing. The AONL (American Organization for Nursing Leadership) and the AHA (American Hospital Association) agreed that there is an unprecedented crisis in healthcare settings and that foreign-born physicians and nurses were playing an essential role during the Coronavirus emergency.