The Trump administration is considering placing visa restrictions on Chinese students coming to the US and ending a program that allows frequent travellers to obtain visas that last 10 years – a move that has been described by CEO of NAFSA Esther Brimmer as potentially “devastating”.
The move comes as part of a package of anti-China measures, which reportedly include tariffs on at least an annual $30 billion of Chinese imports, to pressure Beijing to end requirements that US companies transfer technology to Chinese firms.
“Because Chinese students and scholars contribute so much to our science and innovation, virtually every community in America would feel the impact”
According to Open Doors data, Chinese students accounted for a third of all international students studying in the US for the 2016/2017 academic year, by far the largest percentage of any nationality.
In a statement, Brimmer said a reduction in Chinese international students would have a chilling effect on the country and policymakers should act boldly to let Chinese students know they are valued and welcome.
“Generations of foreign policy leaders agree that international students and scholars are one of America’s greatest foreign policy assets,” Brimmer said.
“If the administration imposes restrictions that will further prohibit students and scholars from choosing the United States as their destination, we will suffer devastating impacts for decades to come.”
Recent reports have shown the US is already losing overall market share of internationally mobile students.
Brimmer pointed out that countries including Australia and Canada have worked to welcome international students, and their efforts have paid dividends.
“Meanwhile, America is beginning to see our international student enrolment decrease, and a threat of action like this will only exacerbate the problem,” she said.
A 2017 NAFSA report revealed that international students contribute $36.9 billion to the US economy and support more than 450,000 jobs.
Chinese students alone were found to contribute $12 billion.
“Because Chinese students and scholars contribute so much to our science and innovation, virtually every community in America would feel the impact if Chinese student visas were restricted in any way,” Brimmer added.
“Students should never be used as bargaining chips, and we cannot afford to lose this valuable resource.”