US visa
A group of Chinese students are frustrated that they are being turned away from the US without reason. Source: AFP/China OUT

A lawsuit is brewing among Chinese students facing US visa discrimination from a Trump-era policy, reports Chinese publication The Global Times. The US Embassy in China resumed processing US visas for students in May — yet, this group claims those from science and tech backgrounds are still being turned away without reason.

Over 20 students have collaboratively set up a website and are raising funds to hire renowned American civil rights and immigration lawyer Ira Kurzban. “So far, more than 1,100 people said they are willing to join us and we hope more could follow,” said a source identified as the initiator. Their data show that 80% of the students affected come from eight leading Chinese STEM universities. At the same time, they have also identified certain literature and business students who have had their US visas impacted by the policy.

This comes after 500 Chinese students reportedly raised the issue of US visa rejections with the Chinese Embassy in the US. The rejections were purportedly based on the Trump-era Immigration and Nationality Act and Presidential Proclamation 10043, which suspends entry for Chinese students and researchers who Washington deems as being connected to China’s “military-civil fusion strategy.”

US visa

Chinese students worry that US visa restrictions may threaten the future of literature and business students too, not just scientists. Source: Frederic J. Brown/AFP

A student from the Nanjing University of Science and Technology called their US visa rejection “unfair and blatant discrimination,” sharing, “I am a student of business and I plan to work in my family enterprise. The visa officer denied me because of my school, without checking my resume for a second.”

Attempt to legally mitigate long-running US visa issues

The Chinese Foreign Ministry further estimates that up to 5,000 Chinese graduates could face US visa issues every year if this discrimination were allowed to go on. According to Georgetown University, this accounts for 27% of the total Chinese graduate students in the US.

International Education Exchange data shows that Chinese students made up 35% of the international student population in the US in 2019-20. Of this number, the Centre for Security and Emerging Technology estimates that there are 45,720 undergraduate Chinese students studying agriculture, biology, computers, engineering, mathematics, and physical sciences and 76,060 in either master’s or PhD programmes in the same fields.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Homeland Security ruled that there will be no fixed time limits to certain US visas for students — yet these Chinese students are still exasperated as their US visa remains out of reach. Beijing has urged Washington to “correct its mistakes, reconsider the visa applications for Chinese students to study in the US, stop using various excuses to willfully restrict and suppress Chinese students, protect their legitimate rights and interests and create a good atmosphere for China-US people-to-people exchanges and education cooperation.”