The announcement Thursday comes one week after China said it had reopened its doors to American citrus exports.
Under the proposed rule, China can ship to the U.S. mandarin oranges, pomelos, sweet oranges, Satsuma mandarin and ponkan if it checks that there are no pests or plant disease.
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is inviting public comment on the proposal for the next 60 days.
The agency said the Chinese fruit would compete with U.S.-grown citrus, though the impact would be limited.
"The quantity of oranges imported from China is likely to be relatively small," the USDA said. "The majority of China's fresh orange exports, mostly navel oranges, go mainly to Russia and to neighboring countries in Asia. China's fresh orange exports to North America, mainly to Canada, are very limited."
China lifted a 1½-year ban on U.S. citrus imports last year over a soil fungus called brown rot. The ban, which mostly affected California growers, had blocked access to a market for American oranges and lemons worth about $30 million.
The loosening trade in citrus comes as the U.S. is still trying to win access for American rice and beef. Meanwhile China is lobbying the U.S. to allow for fresh poultry exports, a move that has triggered concern among food safety advocates.