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Some American techies can still work for Chinese chipmakers, turns out

But if you authorize or handle delivery of factory kit – or service it – you're out

Remember that warning that the USA's new restrictions on semiconductor technology transfer to China would prevent any American from working in the Middle Kingdom's chip-making industry?

Turns out, the rules issued by the White House won't impact as many US persons working for Chinese semiconductor firms as first thought, according to a document [PDF] posted last Friday by the US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security.

Rather than preventing all American workers from plying their trade across China's semiconductor industry, the restrictions mean the US will any American who authorizes or conducts the delivery of equipment used to make advanced semiconductors for chip manufacturing plants in China to seek a licence. A license is also required for Americans who service such kit in Middle Kingdom fabs.

The Bureau of Industry and Security stated that the rules do not apply to American workers performing administrative or clerical duties. Americans, in this case, are defined as those who carry either a US passport or a visa that allows them to reside stateside.

The types of advanced semiconductors impacted include logic integrated circuits produced on a node with 16 or fewer nanometers; NAND memory with 128 or more layers; and DRAM produced on a node of 18nm half-pitch or less.

When the US government announced the rules in early October, former Department of Transportation official Steven Okun said the restrictions would force US nationals to resign from Chinese companies in the broader semiconductor industry – including firms that make AI chips and chip-making equipment:

One of the parts of the executive order that just came out is that US persons – citizens or Green Card holders – can't work in the Chinese semiconductor industry.

You have a lot of Chinese Americans who are in China, who are working in that industry. They are going to have to quit and go back to the US, or at least quit and not work in China anymore – or they're going to have to give up their US citizenship.

This now seems to not be the case.

But while the rules don't appear as broad as first outlined, the US is looking to hamper the Chinese semiconductor industry in other ways – through expanded export restrictions and, as we pointed out today, greater cooperation with American allies. ®

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