Chinese citizens traveling to and from the United States on “short-term business and tourist travel” will now have the option to obtain 10-year visas, announced President Obama at this week’s APEC CEO Summit in China. “Under the new arrangement, student and exchange visas will be extended to five years; business and tourist visas will be extended to 10 years,” he declared.
This comes as a drastic increase from prior policy by which non-immigrant visas (NIV) have been issued one year at a time, and it maxes out the limits of U.S. law which caps the length of any visa to 10 years.
“More than 1.95 million NIV applications were processed for Chinese nationals in fiscal year 2014,” says the U.S. State Department. Chinese students make up the greatest portion of foreign students present in the U.S. but only 16 percent of all types of U.S. visas are issued to Chinese nationals.
Senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett tweeted an image November 10, which claimed, “by 2021, today’s new visa policy will help: As many as 7.3 million Chinese travelers come to the United States.” The message goes on to claim this will “contribute nearly $85 billion per year to the U.S. economy” and “support up to 440,000 American jobs.” However public response to the message was overwhelmingly skeptical.
President Obama has repeatedly stressed cooperation between the U.S. and China on China’s integration into the global economy, climate change initiatives, monitoring nuclear positions in North Korea and Iran, combating terrorism and Ebola, and movement toward an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area during this trip to Asia. He stated at the APEC CEO Summit, “Chinese direct investment in the United States has risen six-fold over the past five years.”
“I am pleased that we continue to expand the ties between our peoples,” President Obama said in a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping, “The new visa extension that begins today will bring more Chinese tourists to the United States and more American tourists to see the magnificent sights of China. That will encourage more exchanges among our students. We welcome more Chinese students to the United States than from any other country. And I’m proud that this summer my ‘100,000 Strong’ program reached our goal of more than 100,000 Americans studying in China in recent years. With these visa extensions, we’ll give more students this opportunity—both Chinese and Americans.”
In addition to extending the length of Chinese visas, President Obama pushed climate change agreements between the two countries, announcing “a new target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025” in the U.S., according to a White House press release. “President Xi Jinping of China announced targets to peak CO2 emissions around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early, and to increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20 percent by 2030.”
A 2014 Center for Immigration Studies raised questions of de facto amnesty when it revealed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents, stating, “The number of aliens who have received a final order of removal, but who are still in the United States, has risen to nearly 900,000.”
While the reports showed a large portion of non-citizen departures from May 2005 to April 2009 were from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the drastic reduction in deportations from the interior, “have plummeted from a peak of about 236,000 in 2009 to about 100,000 in 2014.”
“The turn away from deporting immigrants from the interior of the country amounts to an open invitation for people to come to the U.S. on a legal visa and stay,” reported the Los Angeles Times on comments from Senator Jeff Sessions.
“At least 99.92% of illegal immigrants and visa overstays without known crimes on their records did not face removal,” Senator Sessions’ staff conveyed to Breitbart News in March. However, policies such as the increase in length of Chinese visas brings into question whether this move is simply giving official status to those coming on Chinese visas who may have previously chosen to overstay their one-year visa instead of renewing. It also brings into question the level of oversight for those on extended visas. Now applicants may reside within and travel to and from the U.S. without the need to have visa applications reviewed and approved yearly.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.