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US launches free app for prospective Chinese students

US Ambassador to China Max Baucus introduces the EducationUSA Virtual Adviser Mobile App at the annual Student Visa Day event in Beijing on Monday. Photo: Ding Yi/

At the annual Student Visa Day event on Monday, US Ambassador to China Max Baucus announced the release of a free adviser mobile app that will offer abundant information and a five-step guide to Chinese students preparing for study in the US, with China becoming the biggest source of international students in the US.

"We know students love their smartphones. Today, I am pleased to announce that our EducationUSA China office has just released a game-changing app for smartphones. It is called the EducationUSA Virtual Adviser Mobile App," Baucus said at the event, which was held by the US Embassy in Beijing to mark the work of its visa section in processing Chinese student visas. The event was also attended by Edward Grulich, consul general at the US Embassy in Beijing, Eric Black, the embassy's education officer and dozens of Chinese students who have just gained their student visas.

The EducationUSA Virtual Adviser Mobile App, which is in Chinese, has rich information, helpful tools and a consulting program called "Five Steps to US Study" to help Chinese students research and choose US schools, complete their college applications, apply for student visas and prepare for their departure to the US, said the ambassador. The app, which is a part of the new digital outreach platforms launched by the EducationUSA China office, is free for download on both Android and iPhone devices.

"EducationUSA is an official, trusted source of information about studying in the United States. Guess what, the services they provide are free. You do not have to pay anyone and anywhere for this information," Baucus said, adding that the organization currently has eight full-time advisers in Beijing, with four more to join the US consulates across China later this year.

The app's most helpful and interactive tool is called the Research Notepad, which is connected to a database of over 3,500 accredited US colleges, universities and ESL programs. The Research Notepad guides students by listing key questions they should research when selecting US schools. Other useful tools include the Application Tracker, Student Visa Checklist and Departure Checklist.

"EducationUSA's purpose of developing this app is not to work for the students, but to guide the students in their research…Students who download our free EducationUSA Virtual Advisor Mobile App will find it is like having an EducationUSA advisor in your pocket," Black said.

Increasing number

"The United States continues to welcome more Chinese students every year. In fact, China is the number one source of international students to the United States," Baucus said at Monday's event, adding that Chinese students accounted for about one-third of the total 900,000 international students studying in the US last year. He boasted that studying in the US is a good choice for Chinese students as US education features "added quality without added price" for overseas students.

According to the 2014 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, American colleges and universities enrolled 274,439 Chinese students during the 2013-2014 academic year.

The US ambassador listed the high number of Chinese students in the US as one of the driving factors behind the historic agreement reached by US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November last year to extend the validity of tourist and business visas and student visas.

Over the last month, the US embassy and consulates around China processed more than 25 percent of all non-immigrant visas of the US, according to Baucus, who promised that the wait time for student visa appointments and for all visas will be kept within three days and seven days respectively.

In November 2014, China and the US signed an agreement to extend the validity of student visas to five years from one year, a move that allowed the US to tap into the fast-growing market of Chinese students studying abroad. According to the deal, the terms of the multiple-entry short-term tourist and business visas were extended to 10 years from one year.

When asked about whether the 2016 presidential election will lead to a change in US visa policy toward China, Grulich said that the US government has always encouraged Chinese citizens to travel to the US for both tourism and study purposes and that the visa agreement US President Obama and Chinese President Xi reached last year was an evidence of the deepening of the US-China relationship.

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