Chinese students studying in the US may find it more difficult to stay after President Donald Trump ordered a review of a US visa program that admits foreign workers into the country.
Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday on the H-1B visa program, which admits foreign workers to the US, used largely by the tech and IT industries. Although vague on many fronts, the order is meant to modify or replace the current H-1B visa lottery with a merit-based system that would restrict the visas to highly skilled workers, Reuters reported.
"With this action, we are sending a powerful signal to the world: We're going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first," Trump said.
A Beijing-based migration agency employee surnamed Wang told the Global Times that Chinese students studying overseas who have a graduate degree in computer engineering or other types of engineering, or science-based disciplines would have bigger chance to be chosen in the lottery. However, the review may enhance the minimum wage requirement for H-1B visas to $130,000, with the starting salary for foreign workers to about $100,000, which makes it more difficult for overseas students to stay in the US.
The National Business Daily quoted an insider as saying that Chinese and Indians form the bulk of H-1B visa applications, and that the US government hopes to standardize the application process.
"The change in the H-1B visa mainly targets Indians, but it may also cause worries among Chinese students," an employee from a US-based migration agency surnamed Fu told the Global Times.
Critics said most H-1B visas are given to lower-paying jobs at outsourcing firms, many based in India. They said this takes away jobs from Americans, and keeps Americans from being trained in tech-related fields.
"For those who want to study and stay in the US, tightening the H-1B visa program is not a good sign. The chance for Chinese students studying in the US to enter the lottery is 8.4 percent, and the long visa processing period would also affect employment," read an article released on learning.sohu.com, a platform for sharing overseas study experiences.
China has become the major source of international students in the US, with more than 328,000 studying in the US from 2015 to 2016, according to a report on Chinese students who studied overseas in 2016 on news portal eol.cn.
The number of H-1B visa applications declined this year by about 15 percent, or roughly 37,000 applications, but still nearly 200,000, far more than the 85,000 limit, PBS reported.