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Landmark US-China Visa Agreement

Last week President Barack Obama surprised the world by announcing a landmark reciprocal visa agreement with China. While on a tour of Asian countries, President Obama met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, where he announced the visa agreement. President Obama proclaimed that the visa deal is a positive step forward in the relationship between the United States and China as it will encourage more communication, trade, and tourism between the world’s largest economies. Under the new visa agreement, business and tourist visas (B-1/B-2) will be extended to ten years while student and cultural exchange visas (F-1/J-1) will be extended to five years. Since this is a reciprocal agreement, these changes will apply to Americans traveling to China as well as Chinese travelers in the United States.

This is a vast improvement over the previous system, according to Margaret W. Wong, president and managing partner of Margaret W. Wong & Associates in Cleveland, Ohio. “Now Chinese students and cultural exchange visitors don’t need to stand in line at the embassies every time they go home to visit for New Year or the spring festivals. They’ll just need a new I-20. Plus, the embassies won’t be able to charge more fees,” says Ms. Wong. The reciprocal visa agreement will also be an economic boon for both countries, Ms. Wong believes, since it will lead to more trade and tourism. Ms. Wong also notes that this agreement represents a shift in how China views its relationship with the rest of the world, saying “China had always worried that Chinese businessmen and students in the United States would get too many ‘American ideas’. But this shows that’s not quite the case anymore.”

It is unclear whether the United States will make similar agreements with other Asian nations should the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pass. The United States already has E visa agreements with Taiwan and South Korea as well as a TN visa deal with Canada and Mexico, which is part of the NAFTA agreement.

We will keep you informed of any new developments on this story.

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