On November 12, 2014, the United States began issuing visas in accordance with a new reciprocal arrangement with China, the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs announced. Chinese applicants who qualify for a B nonimmigrant visa (NIV) may now be issued multiple-entry visas for up to 10 years for business and tourist travel. Qualified Chinese students and exchange visitors and their dependents who qualify for F, M, or J visas are now eligible for multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years or the length of their program. U.S. citizens eligible for Chinese short-term business and tourist visas should also receive multiple-entry visas valid for up to 10 years, while qualified U.S. students may receive student residence permits valid up to five years, depending on the length of their educational programs.
The Bureau noted that visa validity is not the same as the allowed duration of stay. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry where a Customs and Border Protection officer will grant admission to valid travelers. In doing so, the officer will inform the traveler of the permitted length of stay. The current change in visa validity does not change the permitted duration of stay for any visa class.
The Bureau said it expects that these changes in visa validity “will be very popular among Chinese travelers. The U.S. Mission in China is taking steps to handle a potential increase in visa workload and intends to keep visa processing times as short as they have been over the past several years.”
There will be no change in visa application fees. The basic visa fee of $160 includes appointment scheduling and passport delivery services.
The United States and China continue to discuss visa validity for other classes of visas. All such decisions are made on a reciprocal basis. The Bureau noted that in FY 2014, business, tourist, student, and exchange visitor visas represented 97 percent of all nonimmigrant visa applications processed in China for Chinese citizens.
A related White House fact sheet notes that China is the fastest-growing outbound tourism market in the world. In 2013, 1.8 million Chinese travelers visited the United States, contributing $21.1 billion to the U.S. economy and supporting more than 109,000 American jobs. Chinese travelers consistently rank the United States as their most-desired travel destination, the fact sheet notes, yet less than 2 percent of total Chinese travelers come to the United States. Chinese travelers cite ease of visa policies as the second most important factor in deciding where to travel, behind only cost. “A competitive visa policy will help us meet projections that suggest as many as 7.3 million Chinese travelers will come to the United States by 2021, contributing nearly $85 billion a year to the economy and supporting up to 440,000 U.S. jobs,” the fact sheet states.
The White House fact sheet also notes that 28 percent of all foreign students and exchange visitors in the United States originate from China. Chinese students in the United States spent $8 billion in 2013, an increase of nearly 24 percent over the previous year.