Student Visa Day in Shanghai
Mobile app aims to assist school-bound Chinese prepare for studying in the US
The visa office of the US Consulate General in Shanghai received more than 60 Chinese students earlier this month as it celebrated its Student Visa Day, an annual event that highlights the work of the consulate’s visa department in processing student visas.
US Consul General in Shanghai Hanscom Smith welcomed the students to one of the world’s busiest visa sections. “China is America’s number one source of international students. Last year, out of 900,000 international students in the US, about 275,000 were Chinese. Over 54,000 of them obtained their visas right here in Shanghai,” he said.
Jewell Elizabeth Evans, consular section chief of the US Consulate General in Shanghai, told the Global Times that this is the busiest time of a year for her department because of the sheer number of Chinese students trying to get to the US.
“Right now we are seeing up to 4,000 applicants every day in person, and about 800 of them are students,” she said. Following a new agreement between China and the US last year, the validity of student visas was extended to five years in November.
Consul General Smith said the new bilateral policy saves Chinese students money and time, but he still urges students to apply for their visas as early as possible, which is particularly important because the number of Chinese students in the US has increased year-on-year over the past decade.
Evans said last year the average visa processing period at the Shanghai consulate was a week or two but suggested that students submit their visa applications a month in advance. “The vast majority of students applying for a visa at the Shanghai consular are well qualified. The rejection rate is very low,” she said, reminding students not to learn from “tips” provided online.
“Many people read on the Internet that you should say this or that during the visa interview process. Ignore the Internet. Just be honest.”
She also suggested that returning students can avoid the interview process and the long lines by submitting their passports for a new visa through the GSS (Global Support Strategy) system at China CITIC bank.
“It’s a very convenient system. Students can drop off their documents, and then they apply online and arrange to have their passports returned to their home. That way they avoid the large crowds at the consulate.”
Zhang Lu, a high school student from Hangzhou, is one of those who received their new visa to the US that day. The girl told the Global Times that despite what the consular advises, her main sources of information about studying in the US were from the Internet. She said she submitted her application only five days earlier.
“The visa processing didn’t take
Chinese students who have received a US visa pose with Hanscom Smith, US Consul General in Shanghai. Staff from the US consulate read out names of students who have received their visas.
(From top) long but I started preparing all my documents and applying to universities in the US at the end of last year,” she said.
In the past, Chinese students seeking higher education in the US turned to the interwebs, private agencies or professional advisers at the consulate for related information. In response to this, the consulate announced on Student Visa Day the release of a new mobile phone app called the EducationUSA Virtual Adviser, which they hope will clear up misinformation online and better assist and advise Chinese students who want to study in the US.
EducationUSA is a US Department of State network of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries. The new outreach app contains videos and step-by-step instructions in Chinese on how to research and select a school in the US, how to complete an admissions application, how to apply for a US student visa and how to prepare for departure.
Photos: Ni Dandan/GT
“The app functions as your virtual adviser because it provides specific suggestions based on your personal circumstances. It is interactive and is designed to be very individualized,” said Li Dan, a senior program assistant with the US Consulate in Shanghai.
The development of this mobile phone app relates to the growing trend among young Chinese of accessing information on their smartphones. Li told the Global Times that the app is free for downloading to any Android device. But it may take “a few more days” for iPhone users to be able to access the app as well.
Li explained that the new app, which took more than a year to develop, is an exclusive platform where authoritative information in this regard can be accessed, allowing students to bypass the many illegitimate agencies thriving in Shanghai who profit by exploiting unaware youngsters and their parents.