The US intends to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students found to be linked with China's military, according to Reuters.
The move has the potential to impact 3,000 to 5,000 Chinese students and may be announced as early as this week.
Chinese students who are in the US will have their visas cancelled and will be expelled, the source briefed on the plans said, while those outside the US will not be allowed to return.
The US and Canada are in strong disagreement over China's decision to move forward with national security legislation for Hong Kong. Pro-democracy activists fear the national security law could diminish or destroy Hong Kong's freedoms and jeopardize and its role as a global financial hub.
Deliberations on the visa move have been mulled over for months now, the sources said. While it is not directly motivated by China's behavior toward Hong Kong, the timing appears to be part of "an overall pressure campaign" against China that has only become more intense in recent months.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress on Wednesday that China had undermined Hong Kong's autonomy so fundamentally that he would be able to support re-certifying the city's special pre-1997 trading status established when it was previously a British colony.
The primary reason for this is to crack down on spying and intellectual property theft that some Chinese nationals are suspected of engaging in on US university and college campuses, the source said, adding that the administration is fully expecting push-back from those institutions due to their financial interests in Chinese student enrollment.
Around 360,000 Chinese nationals who attend US schools annually generate somewhere around $14 billion in economic activity alone, largely from tuitions and other fees.
The decision on the visas is sure to create tension between the world's top two economies, who are also that odds with the coronavirus pandemic and trade.