After a recent announcement by President Barack Obama, starting November 12, 2014, citizens of the People’s Republic of China will prosper from an increase to the validity of short-term business and tourist visas and student and exchange visas. President Obama states that this move will both boost jobs in the United States and improve economic ties between the two countries. Under the new reciprocal agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the United States, Chinese applicants who qualify for a B-category nonimmigrant visa (NIV) may now be issued multiple-entry visas for up to 10 years for business and tourist travel. This is a substantial increase juxtaposed with the current validity period of up to six months. Additionally, qualified Chinese students and exchange visitors (and their dependents) under the F, M, or J-category of visas are now eligible for multiple-entry visas that will be valid for up to five years or the length of their program.
Chinese citizens who regularly travel back and forth between the U.S. and China will benefit from the longer validity period by not having to constantly reapply and pay application fees for their expired visa. Furthermore, Chinese students in the United States will benefit from the longer validity period by having the ability to return to their home counties during school holidays more easily.
It is important to note that the same standards of eligibility for a U.S. visa will apply as for this extension in validity. It is also important to note that visa validity is not the same as the “allowed duration of stay.” A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry where a Customs and Border Protection officer will grant admission to valid travelers. In doing so, the officer will inform the traveler of the permitted length of stay. The current change in visa validity does not change the permitted duration of stay for any visa class. Remaining in the United States beyond your allowed duration of stay can result in a violation of U.S. immigration laws and may cause you to be ineligible for travel to the U.S. in the future. Additionally, existing visas will be valid only until the expiration date printed on the current visa. This extension does not increase the validity of visas already issued. To obtain a visa with extended validity, holders of valid or recently expired visas will need to reapply.