Ask the Yangxifu: Getting US Immigration Help Online for Chinese Loved Ones

US Embassy
The US immigrations process for your Chinese loved ones can be an intimidating source of questions (such as on Communist Party Membership). Fortunately, there's a "light" in the dark -- on the internet -- for anyone in this situation.

Friend to a Foreign Teacher asks:

You’re the first person I thought of when my fellow foreign teacher told me his problem. He is engaged to the most wonderful woman, and she’s Chinese. In July they applied for her fiancee visa to the States so that she can go back with him in summer 2010. Everything seemed to be going fine, but then last night they discovered that she is certain to get a blue card (which means a delay on the application, instead of a red which means ‘all set,’ but I’m sure you know about that!) because she is a member of the Communist Party. As I’m sure you’re aware, joining the Party is almost required if you want to advance in a lot of careers, and her involvement is basically nil.Apparently there’s still some old Cold War era law on the books making it very difficult for Chinese Party members to get a visa. It seems there *are* exceptions to this rule, but they aren’t certain, they’re hard to prove, and they can take a long time, and my coworker doesn’t know how much extra time it would take. Understandably, he and his fiancee are really worried about this.

When he told me about this this morning, you were the first person I thought of, because you and your husband have been through this process. Did your husband have a Party membership to contend with? Do you know anyone who has dealt with this problem?


Ah, the visa application process. This brings back memories — less of nostalgia, and more of the dread that comes when the government can decide if your Chinese loved one goes to the US with you. :-/

My Chinese husband wasn’t a Party member, so we never dealt with this issue. But, fortunately, a lot of others have, and they share their experiences on a website I discovered during my experience going through the US immigration process — Candle For Love, which has a Communist Party Issues page (among many, many others covering just about every visa problem you can imagine).

Candle For Love is like a virtual immigrations lawyer for any American bringing their Chinese fiancee or spouse over to the US — but better, because A) it’s free; B) the knowledge is China-specific (unlike mass-market books on the subject); and C) they even have a sub-forum where you can actually interact with the immigrations officers at the Guangzhou Consulate.

If your friend is new to Candle For Love, besides reading up on the Communist Party Issues, they should visit the FAQ section — it’s literally a virtual encyclopedia on everything you ever wanted to know about getting your fiancee’s/spouse’s visa (but didn’t even know to ask), from applying to what to bring to the interview (I love their Kitchen Sink approach).

I wish your friend the best of luck! But, then again, with Candle For Love, I don’t think he’ll even need the luck. 😉

UPDATE from Friend to a Foreign Teacher: she got a deferral during their appointment in Guangzhou because of the Party affiliation, but she had quit the Party shortly before and prepared all her documents, so about a month later, she got the red slip. So, happy ending! 🙂 They’re going back down to GZ to get her visa in a few weeks.


Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.

15 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Getting US Immigration Help Online for Chinese Loved Ones”

  1. What an amazing resource! I remember back in 2001, recently married in Spain and struggling with the immigration paperwork… I asked a question on a random Internet forum and was lambasted… I admit I was pretty ignorant and naive. Anyway, the whole process ended badly and my husband was denied entry for a 10 year period. Best thing to ever happen to us in the long run, but not ideal. If I’d had access to something like Candle for Love (the Spanish version!) things might have turned out differently, or not, but at least I would have been better informed.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Global Gal! It truly is a wonderful resource — those of us going through immigration with spouses/fiancees from China should count ourselves lucky to have it.

      BTW, your story sounds very familiar to me — were you ever on a now-defunct website called Small World (for Western women in relationships w/ Chinese men)? I recall someone once posting a story like yours, and then saying she ended up living w/ her husband in China. Is that you?

  2. Hey Jocelyn,

    First of all, I just have to say that your blog has opened up so many doors for my blog! Thanks for including mine in your list of other Western women/Chinese men blogs!! 🙂 I’ve gotten a lot of responses from people, via you. Thanks!
    I found this entry to be really interesting and I looked at Candle for Love but couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for so I thought I’d ask you… My fiance and I are planning to return to the states in July, he will be on a student visa. We will already be legally married in China, but not the states. I’m constantly wondering if the student visa is the right way to go for us or if we’ll run into complications down the road. Do you have any advice about this? To go on a student visa or a spouse visa??

  3. Jocelyn – yes, that was me! My husband always tells me I tell my story too much… haha but if anyone hears it and avoids the same mistake we made, it’s all worth it. I remember that group. It was exciting to read stories of other intercultural marriages, with a Chinese slant, since that was where I was headed next.

    Shannon – I thought I’d jump in with what I know about this. If you’re married in China then you’re married in the US, too, as far as I know. Is it different for Chinese? I was married in Spain, never in the US, and my marriage is recognized. Be very careful – if you are not legally married and you have the intention of entering the US to get married, your fiance MUST enter on a fiance visa, otherwise they can accuse you of entering on a visa under false pretenses. If your husband/fiance is going with the main intention to study, a student visa would likely be a quicker/cheaper process, but I do not know the specifics of China. My husband was recently denied a student visa to the US at the Beijing embassy, (and I’m a US citizen) because he couldn’t prove he had no intention of staying beyond the study period (30 days) and settling down in the US. Perhaps you know more Jocelyn?

  4. Globalgal is right, if you’re legally married in China you’re also legally married in the States. You don’t need to do anything for the US to recognize your union, your Chinese marriage certificate makes you legally married in almost any country in the world.

    If your husband already has his student visa and you’re already married, I don’t think the student visa will be a problem. When his visa expires and if you still want to live in America then you can file for an adjustment of status (I believe it is called) and apply for a greencard. By that point you’ll have been married for over 2 years so you should be eligible for an automatic 10 year greencard. If your husband doesn’t have his student visa yet it could get tricky because you could run into the situation that globalgal did, because there might be the assumption that he intends to immigrate and is using the student visa as a shortcut to getting to America.

    One advantage of NOT going on a student visa, that you may or may not have thought of, is that if he is on a student visa he’ll be paying international student tuition, which is rather more expensive than normal tuition, and will most likely not be eligible to recieve student loans and federal funding, whereas if he’s on a greencard as your legal spouse, then he would be able to enjoy the same privileges when it comes to attending school — in country/state tuition and federal financial aid — that any other citizen or legal resident in America would.

  5. Wow, thanks so much for the advice, you both gave me a lot to think about! As of now, we have neither visa…we are getting married in June, although we will probably have our Chinese certificate as soon as next month, if need be. If we apply for the green card (or spousal visa) how long does that generally take? I was concerned that it may take much longer to be approved than a student visa. If he is able to go as a legal spouse, do the tuition adjustments happen immediately? How do we go about discussing that with the schools? Your help is so valuable to me…I think I’ve been quite naive about this whole process!

  6. In order to receive federal financial aid and non-international/resident student tuition rates he’ll need to actually have his green-card, which means you’ll have to have been married for 2 years. The people who have been through it might have a better answer about how long it takes to get the visa to enter the States (which you would change to a greencard in America once you’ve been married for 2 years), but it seems to take around a year at the quickest for most people.

    The resident tuition can make a huge difference. I graduated from UT Austin and, for example, my tuition was something like $5000 a year (UT is so cheap!) whereas the international students were paying more than double that.

    For a student visa he’ll need to already have admission to an American school. Once he has admission he needs to be able to prove that he still intends to return to China after his studies. I deal with this a lot working at an international school where the majority of my Chinese students will be going to college in America. They rarely get turned down because they’re teenagers with wealthy families in China and no real reason to just give that up and immigrate, but with an American spouse that would be a big red flag to the visa officer that you’re using the student visa as a shortcut to immigration. If you do actually intend to settle and live in the United States it might be hard to prove the opposite. He’ll have to prove binding ties to China, usually property or money or a job that will be waiting for him when he gets back, or strong family ties.

    Depending on whether he has admission to a school or not, it might be worth it to actually put off getting your marriage certificate until he has the student visa, if the student visa is still the route you want to go. I think though, in your shoes, I’d maybe re-think things and apply for an immigration visa which would eventually lead to a greencard. If you’re planning to settle in the States that’s by far your most straightforward option and the sooner you apply the sooner he’ll be able to enjoy the study-related. benefits of his greencard.

    Just my 2cp anyhow! Good luck!

  7. Not to hog all the comments but I found this from the UC Riverside site about the citizenship requirements for financial aid

    So your spouse CAN apply for financial aid with a conditional green card. I am not sure quite how long it takes to get that, but it is worth looking into I think.

    Oh I also forgot to mention, there will be different requirements for international students regarding language too. A international student is going to need a certain score on the IELTS or the TOEFL exam for admission to an American school, whereas a greencard holder might not necessarily need to take those exams.

  8. The immigration visa process in China takes a long time, unfortunately. I have a visa application on file in Guangzhou but we’ve had it on hold for the last 3 years since we don’t actually want to immigrate at this time. To get to the point of being ready for the visa interview – the last step before receiving the visa – the process took about 10 months, maybe more. First you have to submit a petition application, get accepted, submit the visa application, wait for interview… in Spain the first time it took me only a few weeks, but China is huge in comparison, so it takes a really, really long time. Anticipate a full year before you will be able to move to the US.

    Based on my experience, I think it could be very difficult to convince the consular officials that your husband/fiance intends to leave the US at the completion of his studies, which is a requirement for getting the student visa. The burden of proof is entirely on you/the visa applicant and they want to see compelling evidence. Work contracts, housing contracts, letters from family, bank account statements, etc. As a Chinese citizen, it will be easier for your husband/fiance to produce those kinds of documents, but it is not easy when you have a US citizen spouse. (In my situation we were in a Catch-22. My husband needed a work contract for the embassy but the Chinese company couldn’t give him the working contract without completing the 30 day course he needed to do in the US.)

    You are in Tianjin, right? The visa unit at the embassy offers a visa hour where US citizens can come in and ask questions. From the consulate’s website: “In order to afford American citizens an opportunity to speak directly with a consular official, the Visa Unit is open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 4:00PM to 5:00PM. Inquiries will be entertained on a first-come, first-served basis. All American citizens present by 4:00PM will have an opportunity to speak to a consular official that day. Inquiries from anyone arriving after 4:00PM will be entertained only if time permits. No one will be admitted after 4:30PM. Only American citizens are allowed to use this service. Citizens of other countries, including legal permanent residents of the United States, will not be allowed into the Visa Unit.”

    You might consider stopping by to ask some questions there. Of course, they CANNOT tell you yes or no, or what to do, but they might be able to give you some helpful general information.

  9. Again, thank you! I hope we can find some proof for the embassy that he plans to come back to China…I know that his job will continue his employment/hold his position and also I think that I can get a letter from my current job saying that I will return. Hopefully that, plus some financial records, is enough! Unfortunately, our timing is very limited…he has already applied to schools and been accepted into one, we’re waiting on the others. We would like to go back in the Fall so it seems that the green card option is not the most suitable for us… 🙁 I looked at the websites that both of you sent…it’s really helpful to know that these options are out there! Really, thank you so much!

  10. Good luck Shannon! All you can do is try, and if the student visa doesn’t work out, take it from there. Be sure to let us know how it works out. We’re going to be applying for a tourist visa for my husband soon which is sort of similar to a student visa in that they don’t like to give them to people who have the ability to apply for immigrant visas and thus have a good reason not to return to China. We’re still going to try though because moving to the States isn’t in the cards for the immediate future. Hopefully it will turn out better than expected for us!

    1. @Shannon, I’m so glad I could help support your blog, and provide some useful information! I would agree that, for your husband to study in the US, a green card has a lot of advantages (he will, though, still have to take those TOEFLs — my husband did!) — but obviously, your timing and plans make it impossible. Globalgal makes a lot of great points that I would concur w/ on the burden of proof. Ultimately, you may have to face the possibility that he could be denied the student visa. I have even known students who even had apartments here in China and still got denied their student visas. I really hope that doesn’t happen to you.

      If you want to get more perspectives (before making a trip to Embassy), you might consider questioning some of the people on Candle for Love — a lot of the moderators (I’m thinking DavidZixuan, WarpedBored, Donahso and many others I cannot remember!) have been there so long, they really understand the mindset of the officers giving out these visas, and the process. I know many folks there have had family members apply for other visas (i.e. tourist, etc) so they should be able to give some initial advice — which can give you an idea of what you’re getting into.

      @globalgal, what a small world (no pun intended) to be reconnected with you! 🙂 Your story is truly memorable and I think it’s fantastic that you want to help others through your own experiences. Thanks for weighing in and helping Shannon with some of your own advice.

      @Jessica, thanks for sharing and pitching in to help Shannon — including doing what looks like a little googling, eh? If you apply for the tourist visa for your husband, you might have a better shot at it than I did back in 2003, seeing that you have a steady job in China, and likely decent financials. Good luck with that! 🙂

  11. My fiance has actually already taken TOEFL and GMAT and we’ve gone through the whole school application process so that part is behind us… We’ve been asking for advice from lots of others, as well, and it sounds like maybe a fiance visa is the way to go but I’m still not totally sure. We’ll keep researching! I’ll keep you all posted! 🙂

    1. Great to hear back from you, Shannon! Here’s a helpful chart comparing the different types of marriage-based visas. Time factor, I think, is the reason people end up choosing fiancee visas. But if you’re doing a Direct Consular Filing (an option available only to those of us who can legally reside in China — i.e. have a work visa), a fiancee visa usually isn’t that much faster than if you file your I-130. Plus, if you go the I-130 route, you’re also saving yourself paperwork back in the US (because you have to do the same things you did in China in the US) and costs.

      Let us know what you decide to do, and good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: