- A group of students/teachers from my partner school is coming to visit for two weeks. What sort of visa will they need?
They should apply for a B-1/B-2 tourist visa, which is the easiest visa for Chinese visitors to obtain. Before your Chinese visitors apply for their visas at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in China, your school or district will send them a formal invitation letter, which states the purpose and length of stay in your school district and in the U.S.
- What is a letter of invitation? What information should it include?
A letter of invitation is a document required for the visa process that formally welcomes the foreign students and teachers to visit your school in the U.S. The letter should be written on a school letterhead and signed by the superintendent. It must list the names (as they appear on their passports), gender, and birth dates for each participant, and briefly describe the arrangements made in your school community to provide host families and educational and cultural activities. Be sure to include that travel beyond your community will be at their own expense. If you are applying for a tourist visa, do not suggest that your visitors will be formally studying or teaching in your schools, as that would requires a different type of visa.
Your visitors will use the letter to obtain passports and will take copies to their visa interviews in China. During their interviews, consular officers will determine whether or not your visitors meet visa requirements. Teachers and students may have separate group interviews because teachers often have government passports while students have private passports. Without this letter your guests will not be able to obtain visas.
- How do I bring a Chinese teacher from partner school to my district to teach for 6 months or more?
Bringing a Chinese educator to your district for a lengthy period of time is more complicated than short-term visits. Chinese visitors need to obtain a J-1 visa, the application for which requires the host district to issue them a DS-2019 form. To do that, host districts must register as a sponsor with the U.S. State Department. In 2012 the fee was $2,700. For information on how to become a sponsor, visit http://j1visa.state.gov/sponsors/.
If you prefer not to register with the U.S. State Department, there are many organizations that, for a fee, will issue your visitors a DS-2019. Here is a partial list.
- A student/teacher from my partner school did not receive a visa to come to the U.S. Why?
Consular officials at U.S. embassies/consulates conduct interviews with applicants for U.S. visas to determine whether or not to issue the interviewee a visa. Sometimes the information provided is contradictory or insufficient to convince them that the applicant is seeking a visa for the reasons stated. In these situations, applicants are denied visas. Unfortunately, it can be a very subjective process. To improve the chances that your visitors receive visas to the U.S., make sure you fulfill all responsibilities on your end: issuing an invitation letter on a school letterhead, signed by the principal or superintendent, with all the required information, and DS-2019 forms, if needed. Send your visitors basic information about your school/district so that they can prepare for their visa interviews. Be sure that the Chinese teachers and students understand and can explain clearly that the purpose of their visit is for educational and cultural exchange and that they plan to return home at the end of their stay.
- My partner school wants to send more students/teachers than we can accommodate. What should I do?
Chinese administrators often feel heavy pressure to provide opportunities for their students and teachers to travel abroad. Sometimes this leads to attempts to send more students/teachers than American hosts can accommodate. Be pleasant, but be firm. The exchange relationship must work for both parties. It is better to make your goals clear early on so as to avoid misunderstandings later on.