The policy, which took immediate effect, limits the maximum duration of travel visas for party members and their families to one month, according to a State Department spokesman.
That means the Chinese recipient must use the visa to enter the United States within one month of it being issued. Based on standard procedure, U.S. border officials would determine at the point of entry how long the visitor could stay. The officials could still permit a multimonth visit.
A visa also does not guarantee entry into the United States; it only allows for consideration of entry by U.S. border officials.
Previously, party members, like other Chinese citizens, could obtain visitor visas for the United States that were valid for up to 10 years.
Travel visas for party members will also be limited to a single entry rather than multiple entries as was possible before, according to two people familiar with the changes.
The new measures do not affect party members’ eligibility for other kinds of visas, such as immigration or employment. The State Department spokesman added that no current visas would be revoked as a result of the policy changes.
The rules add to the conflict, now years long, between the two countries on trade, technology and much else. Coming in the twilight of the Trump administration and aimed squarely at China’s ruling elite, the visa restrictions and the likely Chinese response will be yet another challenge to President-elect Joe Biden, who is inheriting a U.S.-China relationship that is in its worst state since the normalization of diplomatic ties in 1979.
In a Tuesday interview, Biden said he would first consult allies to craft a more comprehensive response to Chinese trade tactics. He has also said he would forcefully address China’s human rights violations, including mass detentions in the western region of Xinjiang. Chinese officials have worried that Biden will be more effective than President Donald Trump at leading a broad global pushback against China.
In principle, the new visa policy could affect the travel of roughly 270 million people, according to U.S. government estimates based on a Communist Party membership of 92 million. In practice, it might be difficult to determine who, apart from high-level officials, belongs to the party.