What Ties Individuals to a Society in the Eyes of U.S. Consular Officers? How Mobility-Stability Capital Stratifies International Legal Movement from Mainland China to the United States, Jacob Richard Thomas (2313519)
How do ties to a society stratify international legal mobility? US immigration law requires consular officers in 157 countries to deny non-immigrant visas (NIVs) to foreigners if they lack strong socio-economic and social ties in their country of residence because of concerns such individuals will overstay their visas and immigrate. Based on an analysis of unique survey data I collected from 2,395 visa applicants exiting US consular bureaus in Beijing and Chengdu, I find no evidence that officers are more likely to grant visas to applicants that have many stronger indicators of socioeconomic status and strong social ties to their country of residence than those denied visas, contrary to what US immigration law mandates them to do and previous literature suggests. However, officers are consistently more likely to grant visas to those who tell surveyors they would immigrate if they had an opportunity. This is because officers are also more likely to grant visas to those who possess specific types of social ties and SES that are forms of what I define as mobility-stability capital. Mobility-stability capital consists of traits that signal to the officer that an applicant is likely to return and include education, travel experience, attending a foreign/selective school, and years working at their current job. This study contributes to knowledge about migrant/travel selectivity, governments’ capacity to control migration, and inequality both between and within migrant-sending and migrant-receiving societies.