Posted on December 5, 2020

U.S. Tightens Visa Rules for Chinese Communist Party Members

Paul Mozur and Raymond Zhong, New York Times, December 3, 2020

The Trump administration on Wednesday issued new rules to curtail travel to the United States by members of the Chinese Communist Party and their immediate families, a move certain to further exacerbate tensions between the two countries.

The new policy, which took immediate effect, limits the maximum duration of travel visas for party members and their families to one month, according to a State Department spokesman.

That means the Chinese recipient must use the visa to enter the United States within one month of it being issued. Based on standard procedure, U.S. border officials would determine at the point of entry how long the visitor can stay. The officials could still permit a multi-month visit.

A visa also does not guarantee entry into the United States; it only allows for consideration of entry by U.S. border officials.

Previously, party members, like other Chinese citizens, could obtain visitor visas for the United States that were valid for up to 10 years.

Travel visas for party members will also be limited to a single entry rather than multiple entries as was possible before, according to two people familiar with the changes.

The new measures do not affect party members’ eligibility for other kinds of visas, such as immigration or employment. The State Department spokesman added that no current visas would be revoked as a result of the policy changes. {snip}


In principle, the new visa policy could affect the travel of roughly 270 million people, according to U.S. government estimates based on a Communist Party membership of 92 million. In practice, it might be difficult to determine who, apart from high-level officials, belongs to the party. That could grant Mr. Biden flexibility in enforcing the new rules, though it would be hard to ignore travel to the United States by top Chinese officials and their family members.

According to the people familiar with the new rules for travel visas, American officials can make a determination about someone’s Communist Party status based on their visa application and interview, as well as officials’ local understanding of party membership. That could mean that the policy disproportionately hits China’s top government and business leaders rather than the millions of lower-level members who join the party to get a leg up in areas as varied as business and the arts. {snip}

The State Department spokesman called the move part of “ongoing policy, regulatory, and law-enforcement action across the U.S. government to protect our nation from the C.C.P.’s malign influence.”


Under Mr. Trump, the State Department has announced other visa restrictions on various categories of Chinese citizens. These include officials responsible for the mass internment and surveillance of Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region, people working in the United States for state-controlled Chinese news organizations and officials deemed to be responsible for the political crackdown in Hong Kong.

In May, American officials said the government was canceling the visas of graduate- or higher-level students in the United States who had ties to certain Chinese military institutions. Chinese students make up the largest group of international students in the country.