Americans studying and working in China have welcomed the announcement that, starting Wednesday, both China and the United States will begin offering each other’s citizens multiple-entry visas of up to 10 years.
President Obama announced the agreement in a speech Monday evening at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, saying that students could receive five-year visas, while tourists and business travelers could be granted 10-year visas.
“I’m happy for it because I definitely plan on being here for longer than one year,” said Kyle Obermann, 22, from Austin, Tex., who is studying Chinese at Peking University in Beijing. “It’ll be nice to not worry about the housing permit and red tape and paying fees in just a one-year limit.”
The visa agreement represents an attempt by the United States and China to advance cultural exchanges and to benefit both of their economies by easing the flow of trade and investment. Previously, Chinese and American travelers usually were limited to one-year visas.
In his speech, Mr. Obama cited the 1.8 million Chinese who visited the United States last year and contributed $21 billion and 100,000 jobs to the American economy.
“This agreement could help us more than quadruple those numbers,” Mr. Obama said, shortly before the White House released a statement forecasting that by 2021, Chinese travelers to the United States will bring in an estimated $85 billion a year.
The announcement came as Chinese interest in traveling to the United States is at an all-time high. Chinese tourists contributed $9.8 billion in 2013 to the United States economy, according to Brand USA, an initiative established under the 2009 Trade Promotion Act to promote tourism to the United States. The primary reasons for Chinese travel are holidays or to visit a relative or friend, and the leading destinations are California and New York.
Forecasts for tourism to China are less rosy. According to a study published by Travel China Guide, a leading online tour operations company in China, there were 3.1 million visits by Americans to China last year on tourist visas, making up 11.8 percent of tourists. That ranked them third after visitors from Asia and Europe.
Still, the new visa regulations have the potential of attracting more Americans to China.
“The new policy will make a lot of things easier, and help people avoid some troublesome aspects of getting a work permit,” said Amber James, 24, from West Palm Beach, Fla., who is a counselor at Elite Scholars China, an organization in Beijing that prepares Chinese high school students for admission to American colleges. “If I’m going to be in China long term, this is an avenue I’d definitely go.”