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Over 1k Chinese student visa holders not enrolled in Cagayan

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco
Vito Barcelo & Maricel Cruz

Only one in three Cagayan-based Chinese granted student visas are currently enrolled in a university in the province, the Bureau of Immigration said.

Of the 1,516 Chinese granted student visas as endorsed by a major university in Cagayan, only 485 are currently enrolled, of which only 96 were attending classes, Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said.

Tansingco said he has requested the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which chairs the inter-agency committee on foreign students (IACFS), to call for a high-level meeting for members to clarify the role of each agency in permitting foreigners to study in the country.

In 2023, BI issued a total of 24,189 student visas to various nationalities. These included 16,190 Chinese nationals nationwide, majority of which are in the National Capital Region.

Schools who accept foreign nationals as students are required to submit regular reports of their students to all IACFS agencies.

“We have requested the high-level meeting to reiterate our previous requests for immediate joint inspections, and for it to become a regular conduct by the IACFS given new developments in national security concerns,” Tansingco said.

As this developed, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers urged President Marcos to scrap an executive order issued by then President Joseph Estrada which allows the Bureau of Immigration to convert tourist visas to student visas.

“In today’s setting, this particular power by the BI can be abused. This arbitrary power to convert visas is the worst legalized scheme that can be used by unscrupulous personnel for monetary gain,” he said, referring to Estrada’s EO 285.

“The 16,200 student visas that the BI granted to Chinese nationals in 2023 is simply unacceptable. Nevermind if other countries grant more, we should never use that as our yardstick given our tense relationship with China,” Barbers said.

“The DFA should be the sole agency in charge of granting visas to foreigners. It alone possesses the expertise to determine whether the applicants are eligible or not,” he added.

Over the weekend, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the Department of Foreign Affairs should expand its policy of stricter controls on Chinese nationals applying for a visa to include students, businessmen and workers, and must be “on the lookout for Trojan horses.”

“Let us have a more comprehensive and stringent vetting of Chinese visa applicants for the sake of peace and order in the country, and our national security. Let us be on the lookout for Trojan horses among them,” Rodriguez said.

Cagayan Rep. Joseph Lara likewise expressed concern over the influx of Chinese students in his province.

He said the influx started after the government identified a naval base in Sta. Ana town in Cagayan as an additional site for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement activities with the United States.

Rodriguez called on the DFA, BI and the Commission on Higher Education to conduct an inventory of Chinese citizens studying in universities not only in Cagayan but in neighboring Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and the Cordillera Region in the wake of conflicting reports on their number.

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