A federal grand jury has issued a superseding indictment against Chinese national Chen Song, 39-years-old, for allegedly fraudulently securing a J-1 visa to the U.S. by lying about her enrollment in China’s military, known as the People’s Liberation Army, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.
Song, charged with visa fraud, obstruction of official proceedings, destruction of records, and making false statements to a government agency, entered the U.S. in December 2018 on a J-1 visa to conduct research at Stanford University after submitting her application the month before.
In her application, Song said she was a neurologist who wanted to come to the U.S. to do research on brain disease at Stanford University. Song told federal immigration officials that she had served in China’s military from September 1, 2000, to June 30, 2011, and claimed her current employer was a hospital in Beijing, China, where her highest rank was “student.”
Song, according to the indictment, lied in her J-1 visa application. In actuality, the indictment alleges Song was still a member of China’s military at the time she applied for the visa and when she entered the U.S.
Likewise, the indictment alleges Song actually worked at a military hospital in Beijing.
“Members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army cannot lie on their visa applications and come to the United States to study without expecting the FBI and our partners to catch them,” Alan Kohler Jr. with the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division said in a statement.
“Time and again, the Chinese government prioritizes stealing U.S. research and taking advantage of our universities over obeying international norms,” Kohler said.
In June 2020, the indictment claims Song sought to destroy records revealing her true identity when she heard of a DOJ case against another member of China’s military who had fraudulently secured a visa to the U.S. to conduct research at a university.
That case charged Chinese national Xin Wang with similar crimes after he allegedly fraudulently secured a J-1 visa to enter the U.S. to conduct research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Wang, federal prosecutors claim, worked at the same military hospital in Beijing as Song and was able to be in the U.S. for more than a year at his UCSF research job.
When interviewed by the FBI, Song denied her post-2011 ties to China’s military and the military hospital in Beijing. Subsequently, public information that tied Song to China’s military was swept clean off the internet, according to federal prosecutors.
Song now faces up to 35 years in prison and a $750,000 fine for visa fraud, obstruction charges, and making false statements to federal officials. Song’s trial is set to begin on April 12.
The J-1 visa program, and other student visa programs, have been readily used by China to secure spots for their citizens in American universities and publicly-funded research programs. China remains the leading country for the international student-to-American university pipeline.
The latest data from 2018, for instance, reveals that China had nearly 480,000 citizens in American university spots with funding of more than $10 billion for those institutions thanks to fees. Data from Fiscal Year 2019 showed that China continues to be the biggest beneficiary of J, M, and F visas.