China to welcome international students again

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After months of slow progress, Chinese authorities appear to be preparing for a widespread return of international students.

“Good news! International students can now return to China to resume their studies,” Ma Hui, Chinese Ambassador to Cuba, wrote in a recent Twitter post.

The message comes as China prepares to ease its COVID-19 restrictions on foreign travelers after two and a half years. By this week, there are plans to abolish current requirements that visitors to the country report nucleic acid test results, infection status and vaccination dates, the Chinese government said. world times reported.

For months, education analysts have been predicting a slow and steady return of some 450,000 foreign learners waiting to return to the country. While July brought indications that some small groups of overseas students were returning, so far these have been the exception rather than the rule.

The latest official messages contain the strongest signs yet that Beijing is preparing for a massive return of international students.

By the end of August, about two dozen countries, including the recent additions of India, Malaysia and Thailand, had received clearance for their students to apply for a Chinese X1 study visa, according to the consultancy in higher education China Admissions.

“Many X1 visa students have already been contacted by their universities, or will be in the coming weeks. In addition to embassies that have already opened X1 student visa applications, we expect all [Chinese] embassies to reopen their student visa services in a phased and coordinated manner,” the group said in a recent post.

Richard Coward, its founder and CEO, said Times Higher Education‘This is a very positive sign, but we still need to be careful’, with students needing permission to return from their universities and embassies, and mobility levels still ‘far from pre-COVID levels “.

A representative of the student lobby group China International Student Union said that “at the moment, embassies have started accepting student visa applications, and most, but not all, schools have issued return certificates to students. [and] others in the process.

Amid the excitement, there was also confusion among the students. On social media, dozens of them said they did not know when they might return.

“My university does not have [get] no information on returning foreign students,” one wrote.

Another of those hoping to return said his university said he would have to wait another two months before being allowed to enter China.

Ji Rong, an adviser to China’s Foreign Ministry, urged students to “keep patience and faith”.

“Dear students, I have many requests for help [with] academic papers and understand your worries. What I learned from MOE [the Ministry of Education] Chinese universities welcome you back and need time to prepare because [the] new study policy [was] just announced,” she wrote on Aug. 23.

But even with patience, those hoping to return can seek reassurance over concerns about a more tangible issue: money.

A Pakistani medical student talks to Times Higher Education said that even if he received a visa with immediate effect, he would not be able to afford a flight.

“Flights to China today are less affordable. No one can afford to buy it,” he said.

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