The U.S. Embassy and consulates in China are scheduled to resume visa appointments for students, starting May 4, after Washington lifted travel restrictions on Monday for students from China and several other countries.
More than 1,000 visa officers will meet students in person to process their applications, William Bistransky, acting consul general at the U.S. Embassy in China, said Friday at a news conference.
On May 4, visa officers at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing will wear sweatshirts with logos of the universities they graduated from to send a signal to Chinese students that Americans “welcome foreign students into our homes or communities or universities,” Bistransky said.
By mid-May, the embassy will be able to conduct 2,000 student visa appointments a day, Bistransky said. Within one hour after the U.S. Embassy’s website opened for online visa appointments for students, it received more than 3,000 applications, he said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Embassy and consulates in China canceled the vast majority of in-person appointments for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processing more than 13 months ago.
Chinese students planning to go to American schools in the fall must apply for a U.S. visa 120 days before the start of their academic program and enter the U.S. 30 days before, Bistransky said.
Whether Chinese students need to complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival will be subject to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local authorities’ policies, he said.
Starting in January, the CDC has required all passengers arriving in the U.S. from abroad to have COVID-19 tests no more than three days before their flight and to present negative results to the airline before boarding. The requirement still applies to students going to the U.S. this fall, Bistransky said.
China is the largest source of foreign students for the U.S. In 2020, 382,000 Chinese students with F-1 and M-1 visas studied at American schools, accounting for 31% of all international students, but that was a 20% decline from 2019. Economic activity in the U.S. generated by international students fell by $1.8 billion during the 2019-20 academic year, down from $40.5 billion in the previous year, according to NAFSA, an association of international educators.