Virginia, US
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| Fragomen

Chinese Nationals Testing Another New Immigration System

Recent changes in US immigration policy are a significant point of conversation among our Asia and Pacific clients. Whilst there has been much attention focused on headline-worthy changes from the new US administration, what has gone unnoticed are the new changes specifically to Chinese nationals who hold B-1/B-2 visitor visas.

Background

Under the new Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) program, Chinese nationals holding a 10 year B visa must fulfill mandatory electronic compliance requirements prior to applying for admission to the United States at a land border port of entry or when boarding a plane destined for the United States.

A B-1/B-2 visa is required for any Chinese national wanting to travel to the United States (US) as a business visitor or tourist. In 2014, the US and China agreed to provide reciprocal 10 year visas to each other’s nationals in order to benefit business and tourism through increased travel, investment, and business development opportunities between the two countries.

However, the new 10 year validity period of B visas means critical biographical information can become outdated, or the applicant may no longer be eligible for the visa category. Given these concerns, the EVUS thus requires all People’s Republic of China (PRC) passport holders with a B1/B2 visa to register in EVUS and update their information every two years. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also notes the program will provide a channel to “identify individuals who may pose a threat or who are otherwise inadmissible to the United States.” In general, the system seems like a simple way to manage abovementioned immigration concerns. 

PRC Passport holders who are entering the US with Taiwanese, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR passports are exempt from enrolling in EVUS; however, it is anticipated that the program will be rolled out to other locations in the future.

The Roll Out of EVUS

Initially, the roll out of the new program created confusion, as it was not clear how the fee would be paid and there was a concern at the possible legal implications of providing certain information through the system

Issues were also raised about the immigration status of foreign nationals who were in the US at the time of the program’s implementation, and CBP’s scope to rescind an individual’s EVUS enrolment due to discovering “irreconcilable errors” or due to “other circumstances,” and consequent implications.

Furthermore, there were also questions raised about the operation of EVUS including the use of language on the website, and the methods by which the EVUS enrolment fee would be paid.

However, after the initial confusion for Chinese nationals both travelling to the US and Chinese nationals who were at the time of the program’s implementation in the US, the storm seems to have calmed and the roll out has remained smooth.

More recently, we have not had any significant issues with the new system. It has been reported that future updates to the EVUS system could add a voluntary question about social media accounts. To date, we have not had any clients advise that they have been asked for their social media handles. While currently there is no fee, it has also been reported that the US Government will eventually implement the visa fee.

What We Recommend

While CBP has noted that most applicants will be approved within minutes, delays of up to 72 hours could be incurred after enrolling. To avoid any issues, we recommend that eligible applicants enrol at least four days prior to their flight. If there are any questions that may cause possible inadmissibility to the US we advise that you seek legal advice prior to enrolling and/or travelling to the US.

This EVUS will be required to be updated every two years. Irrelevant of this period, travellers should check their status every time they enter the US and update their information when required.

To avoid any risks and to accommodate previously mentioned potential delays, we recommend that Chinese nationals review the status of their EVUS registration four days prior to boarding.

Fragomen’s Sydney based US Consular Team can assist with queries related to US travel from China as well as across the Asia-Pacific region. Please contact Nikki Dryden at ndryden@fragomen