Trump Administration Issues Travel Ban for Certain Chinese Students and Researchers

Jun 1, 2020 | Raluca Vais-Ottosen

Published 6.1.2020

On May 29, 2020, President Trump issued a new presidential proclamation limiting the entry in the U.S. of foreign nationals, this time restricting travel for certain F and J visa holders from China.  The travel ban took effect on June 1, 2020 and has no predetermined expiration date.  The proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by the President. 

What are F and J visas?

F-1 visas, commonly known as “student visas” are used by foreign nationals to attend school in the U.S. at various educational levels, including high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels, among others.  Spouses and minor children of F-1 visa holders may qualify for F-2 visas to accompany the principal F-1 student to the U.S.

J-1 visas, commonly known as “exchange visas” are used for several categories, including physicians, researchers, scholars, university professors, and teachers.  J-1 visas are also used for some temporary positions such as au pair, interns, trainees, or summer work.   Spouses and minor children of J-1 holders may qualify for J-2 visas to accompany the principal J-1 to the U.S.

Both the F and J visas are temporary, non-immigrant classifications, which do not provide an independent path to permanent residence (green card), or U.S. citizenship.  In fact, to qualify for F and J status, the visa applicant must prove to the satisfaction of the U.S. consulate that they have sufficient ties to their home country and intend to return home at the end of the F or J visa program they would attend in the U.S.

What does the Presidential Proclamation prohibit?

The May 29, 2020 Presidential Proclamation prohibits the entry into the United States as a nonimmigrant with F or J visa of any national of the People’s Republic of China who:

  • seeks to study at a graduate level or conduct research in the U.S., and
  • receives funding from, or has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of any entity in China that implements or supports China’s military-civil fusion strategy

The Proclamation does not restrict entry to the U.S. of F and J visa holders for purposes of undergraduate studies, activities not related to U.S. education or research, or even for graduate studies if the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security determine the study or research program in the U.S. would not render information that may contribute to furthering China’s military-civil fusion strategy. 

The Proclamation does not restrict travel to the U.S. for permanent residents (green card holders), spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, members of the U.S. Armer Forces and their spouses and children, individuals traveling pursuant to Section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement or other international agreements, or individuals whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement or would be in the national interest of the U.S. as determined by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security.

How will this Proclamation be implemented?

The Proclamation directs the U.S. Department of State to establish its own standards and procedures to identify all Chinese nationals seeking F and J visas to the U.S. who are affiliated with the study or research of any field that would potentially contribute to China’s military-fusion strategy.  The U.S. Department of State’s process will be used in vetting visa applications at the U.S. consulates abroad.  Similarly, the Proclamation directs the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to implement these restrictions for any individual seeking to enter the U.S. who has already obtained the F or J visa.

Given the effective date of the Proclamation (June 1st), we anticipate that Chinese students seeking to travel to the U.S. for the upcoming academic year 2020-2021 will experience severe delays in visa processing and a high number of visa denials, especially for those seeking to attend U.S. graduate programs in technology, engineering, or other scientific fields.  Chinese nationals already in possession of a J or F visa (and their spouses and children accompanying them) who wish to travel to the U.S. to resume their studies and/or research should also expect a higher likelihood that they will be subject to secondary inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when going through U.S. customs.

Does this Proclamation limit travel on any other types of visas?

The Proclamation only limits travel on F and J visas.  However, the Proclamation directs the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to review other types of visas, both nonimmigrant (temporary) and immigrant (leading to permanent residence/green card) within 60 days and recommend additional restrictions to the President.

We will continue to monitor the implementation of this Proclamation as the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security begin rolling out their respective regulations and procedures, and we will provide period updates.  In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding this issue or other U.S. immigration-related matter, please contact Attorney Raluca (Luca) Vais-Ottosen at (608) 252-9291 or