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New visa policy sets barriers for Confucius Institutes in US (2)

By Wen Xian, Zhang Yang and Zhengqi (People's Daily)

16:23, May 25, 2012

Confusing policy

According to the policy directive sent to all U.S. universities that sponsor Confucius Institutes, although Confucius Institutes may benefit the enhancement of cultural exchange, the activities engaged by foreign nationals under the Exchange Visitor Program must be conducted under the correct categories of exchange pursuant to the proper regulations.

Foreign professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or university students are prohibited from teaching in public or private schools at the pre-college level, according to the Exchange Visitor Program regulations.

Only accredited post-secondary institutions can offer Chinese language courses, and professors who hold a J-1 visa can only teach at the foreign language colleges of these institutions.

A J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to exchange visitors participating in programs approved by the State Department. The U.S. government conducted a survey of J-1 visa holders in early 2012.

"The Department is reviewing the academic viability of the Confucius Institutes… Confucius Institutes, therefore, must apply for U.S. accreditation in order to offer teaching opportunities at the Institute or other colleges/universities in which a J-1 professor could participate," the statement concludes. The so-called accreditation is the most confusing part of the statement.

An insider said that Confucius Institutes do not grant credits or degrees. In other words, they do not meet the prerequisites for obtaining U.S. accreditation. The United States has not explained how they will accredit the institutes.

Similar cultural promotion programs such as Germany's Goethe Institute and France's Alliance Francaise are not required to obtain U.S. accreditation to operate in the country. The heads of the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland, the first Confucius Institute in the United States, and the Confucius Institute at George Mason University all expressed their puzzlement at the new visa policy, and are now discussing about the accreditation.

Political forces make constant attempts to tarnish the image of the Confucius Institutes

The new policy is an obvious attack on Confucius Institutes. Officials at U.S. universities hosting these institutes called the policy statement "surprising" and "unusual," and said they were still discussing about how to respond.

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