- CCP Membership and Affiliation
- Suspension of Entry of F (Students) and J (Exchange Visitors) for Ties to China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy
- Failure to Repatriate Deportees
- Anti-Kleptocracy and Human Rights
- Serious Adverse Foreign Policy Consequences
- Hong Kong Autonomy Act
- Forced or Coercive Abortion or Sterilization
Visa sanctions are a tool used against by the U.S. government to further foreign policy objectives as they relate to China by targeting specific individuals, companies, and institutions. This article summarizes key visa sanctions against Chinese persons and entities.
Besides the visa sanctions discussed here, other similar U.S. foreign policy tools include, for example, Global Magnitsky Act and other financial sanctions, export controls, and import restrictions.
CCP Membership and Affiliation
Generally speaking, “membership” in “the Communist or any other totalitarian party” makes a person may be ineligible for a green card. INA § 212(a)(3)(D)(i). See INA § 101(a)(37) (defining “totalitarian party”).
So does membership in any organization “affiliate[d]” with such a Party. INA § 212(a)(3)(D)(i). In China, organizations affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) include minor political parties and mass organizations (e.g., Communist Youth League, All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, All-China Federation of Trade Unions, All-China Women’s Federation). Such organizations are led by the Party, which uses them to penetrate the society at large and encourage popular support for Party policies. Robert L. Worden, et al, China: A Country Study (GPO 1987), http://countrystudies.us/china/107.htm.
Further, a person who is not a member of the Party or any other proscribed organization ineligible for a green card if he or she has been “affiliated with” the Party or one of these other organizations. Id. “Voluntary service” in a “political capacity” does constitute “affiliation with” the Party. 22 C.F.R. § 40.34(c). And “employment in a responsible position in the government,” including the military, of a communist-controlled country” is presumed to be “voluntary service.” 9 FAM 302.5-6(B)(4). A “rank-and-file” government worker doesn’t count as a person in a “responsible position.” Id.
Also, on Dec. 2, 2020, the State Department issued new restrictions on B1/B2 (visitor for business or leisure) visas for members of the CCP and their families. While other Chinese citizens may obtain multiple-entry visas valid for entry within 10 years, under a 2014 reciprocal agreement between Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping, CCP members and their families will be limited to single-entry visas valid for entry within 1 month of issuance. In essence, they will need to apply for a new visa for each planned trip to the U.S., although interviews may be waived for renewal applications.
Suspension of Entry of F (Students) and J (Exchange Visitors) for Ties to China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy
Under Presidential Proclamation 10043 of May 29, 2020, entry of a Chinese national as an F (student) or J (exchange visitor), except for “undergraduate study,” is suspended and limited, if the individual has certain ties to an entity that “implements or supports” China’s “military-civil fusion strategy.”
Those ties include:
- receiving funding;
- current or prior employment by;
- current or prior study at; or
- current or previous research conducted at or on behalf of such entity.
The proclamation has targeted most obviously persons who have studied at or been employed by the “seven sons of national defense,” leading universities with deep roots in the military industry:
|Beijing Institute of Technology||Armaments and aeronautics|
|Beihang University||Aeronautics and astronautics|
|Harbin Engineering University||Maritime technology, nuclear, aeronautics, astronautics, and armaments|
|Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics||Aeronautics and astronautics|
|Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics||Aeronautics and astronautics|
|Nanjing University of Science and Technology||Armaments|
|Northwestern Polytechnical University||Aeronautics, astronautics, maritime technology and armaments|
Failure to Repatriate Deportees
Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the U.S. to retaliate against countries that fail to repatriate deportees:
“On being notified by the Attorney General that the government of a foreign country denies or unreasonably delays accepting an alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident of that country after the Attorney General asks whether the government will accept the alien under this section, the Secretary of State shall order consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country until the Attorney General notifies the Secretary that the country has accepted the alien.”
In about May 2021, the Secretary of Homeland Security has notified the Secretary of State that China denies or unreasonably delays accepting the return of its citizens subject to final orders of removal from the United States, and the Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in the China to discontinue granting B1, B2, B1/B2, F1, F2, J1, and J2 for Chinese officials who are holding the rank of deputy director (or equivalent) and above who are employed by the China’s National Immigration Administration (including the Exit and Entry Bureau) as well as their spouses and children under the age of 21 whether married or unmarried; and officials currently employed by the National Supervisory Commission, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Public Security and the spouses and children under 30 of the above officials.
Anti-Kleptocracy and Human Rights
“Officials of foreign governments and their immediate family members about whom the Secretary of State has credible information have been involved, directly or indirectly, in significant corruption, including corruption related to the extraction of natural resources, or a gross violation of human rights shall be ineligible for entry into the United States.” Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, Pub. L. 116-94, § 7031(c), 133 Stat. 2534, 2865.
On Mar. 21, 2022, the Secretary announced visa restrictions “on PRC officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, policies or actions aimed at repressing religious and spiritual practitioners, members of ethnic minority groups, dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists, labor organizers, civil society organizers, and peaceful protestors in China and beyond.” The announcement claims that some of the targeted PRC officials were involved in repressive acts within the U.S. The announcement did not cite to any specific legal authority for the new restrictions. Nor did the announcement specify which PRC officials were being targeted. However, the visa sanctions were imposed shortly after five people were charged by Federal prosecutors in New York for working on behalf of China’s secret police to stalk, harass, and spy on Chinese nationals in the U.S. because of their disfavored political views.
On July 9, 2020, the Secretary publicly designated the following individuals for “human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith”:
- CHEN Quanguo, the Party Secretary of the XUAR;
- ZHU Hailun, Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Political and Legal Committee (XPLC); and
- WANG Mingshan, the current Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB).
On Dec. 10, 2021, the Secretary publicly designated the following PRC officials for involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely arbitrary detention of Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang:
- SHOHRAT Zakir, Chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR) from at least 2018 until 2021;
- ERKEN Tuniyaz, acting Chairman of the XUAR and Vice Chairman of the XUAR since 2008;
- HU Lianhe, Deputy Director General, Ninth Bureau, United Front Work Department; and
- CHEN Mingguo, Director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
On Dec. 9, 2022, the Secretary designated the following individuals for visa sanctions:
- WU Yingjie, former Tibet Autonomous Region party secretary, for his connection to serious human rights abuse in Tibet related to “social stability” policies.
- ZHANG Hongbo, former director of the Tibetan Public Security Bureau, for arbitrary detention, physical abuse, and violations of religious freedom.
- TANG Yong, former deputy director of Chongqing Area Prisons, for arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners.
- LI Zhenyu and ZHUO Xinrong, as well as a network of entities including Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., Ltd. (Dalian) and Pingtan Marine Enterprise, Ltd. (Pingtan), for engaging in forced labor of crew members.
Serious Adverse Foreign Policy Consequences
Under section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, an “alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable ground to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States is inadmissible.”
Pursuant to that authority, on July 15, 2020, the Secretary of State announced visa sanctions on “certain employees of Chinese technology companies that provide material support to regimes engaging in human rights abuses globally.” That includes certain employees of Huawei, which the Secretary claimed is “an arm of the CCP’s surveillance state that censors political dissidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the indentured servitude of its population shipped all over China.”
Also pursuant to that authority, on July 20, 2020, the Secretary of State announced visa restrictions on CCP officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang pursuant to the policy announced in October 2019.” Their family members may also be subject to these restrictions.
And pursuant to 212(a)(3)(C), on Dec. 4, 2020, the Secretary of State announced visa restrictions on “PRC and CCP officials, or individuals active in United Front Work Department activities, who have engaged in the use or threat of physical violence, theft and release of private information, espionage, sabotage, or malicious interference in domestic political affairs, academic freedom, personal privacy, or business activity. These malign activities are intended to co-opt and coerce sub-national leaders, overseas Chinese communities, academia, and other civil society groups both in the United States and other countries in furtherance of the CCP’s authoritarian narratives and policy preferences.”
Also pursuant to 212(a)(3)(C), on Dec. 21, 2020, the Secretary of State announced visa restrictions on “Chinese officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, policies or actions aimed at repressing religious and spiritual practitioners, members of ethnic minority groups, dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists, labor organizers, civil society organizers, and peaceful protestors. Family members of such persons may also be subject to these additional restrictions.”
Pursuant to 212(a)(3)(C), on Aug. 22, 2023, the Secretary of State announced visa restrictions on “PRC officials for their involvement in the forcible assimilation of more than one million Tibetan children in government-run boarding schools. These coercive policies seek to eliminate Tibet’s distinct linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions among younger generations of Tibetans.” A State Department official said the restrictions would apply to current and former PRC officials involved in education policy in Tibet.
Hong Kong Autonomy Act
Pursuant to the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, Pub. L. No. 116-149, the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should issue periodic reports listing determinations that foreign persons are materially contributing to, have materially contributed to, or have attempted to materially contribute to the failure of China to meet its obligations under the Sino–British Joint Declaration or Hong Kong’s Basic Law. On Dec. 20, 2021, the Secretary of State announced such designations for:
- CHEN Dong, a Deputy Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong (LOCPG);
- LU Xinning, a Deputy Director of LOCPG;
- TAN Tieniu, a Deputy Director LOCPG;
- HE Jing, a Deputy Director of LOCPG; and
- YIN Zonghua, a Deputy Director of LOCPG.
Forced or Coercive Abortion or Sterilization
Title 8 U.S.C. section 1182e prohibits the issuance of a visa to any foreign national whom the Secretary of State finds, based on credible and specific information, to have been directly involved in the establishment or enforcement of population control policies forcing a woman to undergo an abortion against her free choice or forcing a man or woman to undergo sterilization against their free choice, unless the Secretary has substantial grounds for believing that the foreign national has discontinued their involvement with, and support for, such policies. See 9 FAM 302.7-9.