U.S. granted Chinese student visas at pre-pandemic levels in June

Foreign Affairs

The U.S. issued nearly 34,000 F1 visas in June for Chinese students, about the same level as 2019. It’s not yet clear if the total number of Chinese students for the fall semester will be higher or lower than before the pandemic.

An education expo in Beijing
An education expo in Beijing in 2018. Photo from Oriental Image via Reuters Connect.

For the approximately 370,000 Chinese students attending school in the U.S., the summer of 2020 was marked by a series of towering hurdles:

Are student numbers rebounding now?

The summer of 2021 is looking very different, at least according to one key statistic, reported by the South China Morning Post:

Official data from the U.S. State Department shows that the U.S. began to increase its visa approvals for Chinese students in earnest in May, with its latest numbers of F1 visas – the most common type of student visa – reaching similar levels for those granted before the COVID-19 outbreak in late 2019.

The number of F1 visas granted for Chinese students in the month of June for the past three years are:

  • June 2019: 34,001
  • June 2020: 8
  • June 2021: 33,896

“One month doesn’t tell the whole story — it’ll still be awhile before we know if overall numbers will rebound — but a good early sign,” remarked Eric Fish, a journalist who has written extensively about Chinese students in the U.S.

  • Fish thinks the numbers still might dip in the fall, but are likely to keep growing in the longer term because “the pool of those who can afford U.S. education in China is…still growing.”

Will Beijing be happy?

While a resumption of pre-pandemic levels of student visas is something Beijing is sure to welcome, other student-related grievances from China remain unaddressed.