Washington has decided to bar Communist Party members from immigrating into the country, according to new policy guidance issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last Friday.

The USCIS announced that anyone who is or has been a member of or affiliated with a Communist or totalitarian party cannot immigrate to America. The agency said the policy was part of a broader set of laws passed by the Congress to address threats to the safety and security of the country.

Photo: Jnn1776, via Flickr.

“Membership in or affiliation with the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party is inconsistent and incompatible with the Naturalisation Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, which includes pledging to ‘support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States’,” the USCIS wrote in a statement, which did not explicitly name the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The move came amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, as US President Donald Trump sought to block Chinese-owned apps including TikTok and WeChat, citing security fears.

China has also condemned the US for imposing “barbarous and rude” sanctions against Hong Kong officials, following the enactment of controversial national security legislation in the city.

According to German database company Statista, the CCP had about 91.91 million members in 2019. Among them, almost two million were college students.

The USCIS guidance included an exemption for involuntary membership, such as for people who become a member under the age of 16, or those who join the party for the purposes of obtaining employment, food rations or other living necessities.

The Great Hall. File Photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

An exception also extends to people who terminated their membership or affiliation at least two years before the date of their immigration application. Non-US citizens who were members of or connected with a party that leads a totalitarian dictatorship must cut ties with the group at least five years prior to their immigration application to be exempted from the rule.

In both cases, the consular officer must deem the applicant “not a threat” to US security.

The attorney general may, with discretion, waive the rules, if the person seeking to immigrate is a close family member of a US citizen or relocating on humanitarian grounds.

“[T]o assure family unity, or when it is otherwise in the public interest if the immigrant is not a threat to the security of the United States,” the policy stated.

In response, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Chinese state tabloid Global Times said on Sunday that many Chinese talents are members of the CCP. He said the new immigration guidelines would help China retain talent within its borders.

“The decision by the US helps keep more talents in China since it takes out their illusion. Not bad. What’s more, non-CPC [Communist Party of China] members now have much less interest in immigrating to the US,” Hu wrote on Twitter.

Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.