New student visa agreements ease studies for some San Gabriel Valley students from China

Many Chinese students in the San Gabriel Valley will be able to spend more time in 2015 studying and less time worrying about filing paperwork. A new reciprocal agreement with the People's Republic of China launched on Nov. 12, extending student and exchange visas from one to five years.

“It’s just so much more convenient than before,” said Vivian Fu, an Alhambra resident and first-year nursing student at CSU Fullerton, of the extension. Previously, Fu said she had to "do the whole application and same interview again” each year, which would take money and time.

For Fu, who is from Dalian, a northeastern port city in China, the new visa agreements represent progress towards “the purpose we are here,” Fu said. “To study hard.”

White House officials hope these student visa agreements, as well as new tourist visa extensions, will make studying in the U.S. more attractive for Chinese students and create a competitive advantage for the U.S. in the global business arena. "This arrangement will improve trade, investment, and business ties by facilitating travel and offering easier access to both economies," reads a Nov. 10 statement from the White House. "As a result of this arrangement, the United States hopes to welcome a growing share of eligible Chinese travelers, inject billions in the U.S. economy, and create enough demand to support hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs."

Some students in China say they are looking forward to studying in the U.S. now that the new requirements are in place. Beijing native Emily Shen hopes to move to the San Gabriel Valley to pursue a graduate language degree and teach English as a second language. “Studying in the U.S. will help us to become more diversified,” Shen said. “Being exposed to different people and cultures will help to enrich our lives and personalities, to be more competitive in our future careers, more open-minded, and learn to embrace more."

Chinese student and exchange visitors represent 30 percent of all such visas issued worldwide, with Chinese nationals comprising the largest group of foreign students in the United States, according to White House staff. These Chinese students injected $8 billion into the U.S. economy in 2013, an approximate 24 percent increase from 2012.

After their studies are complete, 45 percent of foreign student graduates extend their visas to work in the same metropolitan area as their college or university, according to a 2014 Brooking Institution report. Fu recommended students in the San Gabriel Valley consider living in Alhambra. “It is convenient — if you really want Chinese food, you can find it anywhere,” Fu said. “And I like the weather.”

But the large Chinese population in Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley has posed some challenges, according to Fu. “I have to concentrate on my English," Fu said. "But if there are other people who talk to me in Chinese, I don’t use it, and after a while, I will stop improving."

Fu also noted that some residents have negative perceptions of Chinese students, which can make assimilating into American culture difficult. “Most Chinese students are hard working, who have to work hard to come here, pay for their tuition, and they have stress and pressures from their family,” Fu said. “They have to study hard and let their parents know that it was worth it."

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