Stu­dent Visa Day in Shang­hai

Mo­bile app aims to as­sist school-bound Chi­nese pre­pare for study­ing in the US

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - COMMUNITY - By Ni Dan­dan

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.

Busy sea­son

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.

Vir­tual ad­viser

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.

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