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President Trump Suspends Certain Chinese Post-Graduate Students from US Studies and Research

On Friday, May 29, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation, effective Monday, June 1, 2020, suspending indefinitely the entry into the US of certain Chinese students and researchers. 

To be barred from entry, the Chinese national must be: (1) a post-graduate student or researcher, (2) entering in F or J status (3) to study or conduct research in a field that is believed to aid the Chinese “military-civil fusion strategy”, and (4) they receive or received funding from, work or worked at, study or studied at, conduct or conducted research at or on behalf of an entity in China that implements or supports China’s “military-civil fusion strategy”. Undergraduate students and researchers are not barred by this proclamation. In addition, researchers entering with work visas, like O-1’s (those with extraordinary ability in the sciences), H-1B’s (specialty occupations), and L-1’s (international company transferees) are not barred.

To explain the reason for this debarment, the proclamation states that the President believes that China has “engaged in a wide-ranging and heavily resourced campaign to acquire sensitive United States technology and intellectual property, in part to bolster the modernization and capability of its military,” and this poses a threat to the US people and economy. It continues to say that the Chinese government has often used post-graduate students “as non-traditional collectors of intellectual property”.

The Proclamation does not clearly define “military-civil fusion strategy”, except to say that they are “technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities.” The Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security have the discretion to decide whether a particular field of study or research area falls within this protected area. Given the broad purpose of the proclamation, it may be safe to assume that those studying or researching in a broad range of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) fields are at a high risk of being barred.

Chinese post-graduate students and researchers already in the US in F or J status are not immediately impacted by this proclamation. However, the Secretary of State is considering whether any of their visas should be revoked, forcing them to leave the US or immediately transfer to another immigration status (although, if that individual has been labeled a threat to the US, any future application for an immigration benefit will likely be jeopardized). Further, upon departure from the US of any Chinese post-graduate students and researchers already in the US in F or J status (such as traveling outside the US for pleasure), the debarment would be triggered, and they would not be allowed to reenter the United States.

The proclamation does not apply to (1) spouses of US citizens and green card holders, (2) those who are members or are spouses or children of members, of the US Armed Forces, (3) those whose entry falls within applicable international agreements such as the United Nations Headquarters Agreement, (4) those whose entry would further important US law enforcement activities, (5) those whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security, and (6) those seeking asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

There is a chance that the debarment will be broadened to other areas and visa categories. Within the next 60 days, the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security will recommend to the President whether additional temporary visa and green card categories should be restricted.

The restrictions in this proclamation are indefinite. They remain in effect until the President terminates them.

Students, schools, and employers should consult each other and their immigration counsel to determine the impact of this proclamation. 


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