Saudis Distressed over U.S. Visas

For Saudis, many things have changed after 9/11. One of these things is that getting a visa to enter the United States has become very, very difficult. The reevaluation of the process to grant visas to Saudis have made it complex and time-consuming. I don’t blame American for trying to protect their country, and to be fair, getting a visa to enter Saudi Arabia is not that easy either.

However, what many Saudis complain about is not the long process and the time it takes, although time can be a very important factor especially in medical cases, but rather the way they are treated when they apply for a visa to enter the U.S.

Mohammed al-Tounsi, managing director of al-Ekhbariya news channel, recently published an open letter to the U.S. ambassador in Riyadh in al-Watan daily where he wrote about the “humiliation” he has had to go though when he applied for a visa to take his wife Rima al-Shamekh for treatment in America. Al-Shamekh who used to host a popular talk show on al-Ekhbariya has suffered a stroke on air when she was interviewing the former British ambassador last year. Al-Tounsi says that apparently every Saudi is “a ‘suspect’ until Homeland Security in Washington prove otherwise.”

In the same newspaper, columnist Ali al-Mousa followed the next day with another letter to the ambassador, saying there are 200 instructors in the university where he works who dose not want to visit the U.S. embassy because they prefer to avoid “humiliation, procrastination and insults.” He says with that this kind of treatment, the millions of dollars America spend on PR are rather pointless. “We will not shave our beards to prove that we are not on terrorists’ lists, and we will not change our culture because we believe we are a peaceful nation with a noble message that won’t be distorted by a few out of millions,” he added.

Needless to say, some extremists could not miss the chance to take cheap shot at al-Tounsi and al-Mousa. Using their mouthpiece, al-Sahat Forums, where they usually accuse Saudi liberal figures of being blindly loyal to the U.S., they seem to be rather happy that “Americans have rejected and humiliated their own loyal agents.” Some of them have even gone as far as describing what is happening here as a conspiracy by Saudi liberals to distance themselves from Mama America.

I have my own experience with the U.S. embassy in Riyadh that I will write about in detail later, but for now I’m wondering how/if the ambassador is going to respond to these letters, and if the U.S. government are considering any change in the process of granting entry visas for Saudi citizens. It has been six years since 9/11 so maybe it’s about time to review the process and consider the possibility of making it less complicated and more streamlined.

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33 thoughts on “Saudis Distressed over U.S. Visas

  1. September 11th was a horrendous event for all Americans. However, the events that have ensued almost six years later are almost just as bad. Instead of the US gov’t making lemonade out lemons they have decided to make hydrochloric acid out of lemons instead. September 11th has been the biggest excuse making machine in American history. The US bureaucratic machine (embassies included) hasve doubled for American “security,” making getting any kind of help or common services from the US gov’t next to impossible, all because of new post-9/11 protocol.

    Though warranted, the US gov’t has harshly tightened its immigration standards on one end on sorely loosened them on the other (illegal immigration). For Saudis this is a genuinely unfair standard because let us not forget all of the 9/11 highjackers did come into the US legally, and it was the US system that failed and continues to do so today!! It is an abomination when people who are allies of the US are treated like Al-Qaida extremist, which is an unfortunate mind set for the majority of Saudis. Some Americans and the gov’t really forget how much the Saudis invest in our society and its economy, which is nothing shy of true hypocrisy and a lack gratitude.

  2. He says with that this kind of treatment, the millions of dollars America spend on PR are rather pointless.

    I wasn’t aware that the US was spending a lot of money on public relations in Saudi Arabia. If that is true, I personally would like that put to an end. When Karen Hughes and other major figures on the US political scene were heckled and humiliated by Saudis (mostly students) in recent years, I think that should have pretty much put an end to attempts at “winning hearts and minds” in KSA. I’m surprised it didn’t.


    For Saudis this is a genuinely unfair standard because let us not forget all of the 9/11 highjackers did come into the US legally, and it was the US system that failed and continues to do so today!!

    I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is… that’s the problem, isn’t it? That is the failure? That we voluntarily allowed the people who attacked us into the country? Isn’t that the problem we are trying to correct?

  3. Hi, I´m very happy to find your blog. My name is Mirela, i´m from Brazil and I like to know more about arabic people, thinks, and make friendship. So I inveted you to visit my blog.. Shukan Maa Saalama

  4. The real problem is that Saudi Arabia promotes a nazist strand of Islam (and Islam is not better than fascism and communism) inside its border and outside.
    In Europe and America the Imams supported by saudi’s money are the more firebranded, hate preacher and violence inciting.

    The reality is that the USA and the EU have patience with you only to no damage the oil commerce. But the oil peak is near, and so the need to keep a low profile with you.

  5. I’m puzzled why a Saudi citizen would go to the US for medical treatment. SA is a rich country. I would have thought its hospitals would be first class.

  6. Most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi,and most of the suicide killers in Iraq today are Saudi. KSA brainwashes its citizens into a deadly cult that allows zero tolerance for others. Don’t be surprised when those “others” react in kind.

  7. The visa process at the US Embassy in Riyadh needs improving; of that there is no doubt. However I believe there are multiple issues compounding the problems which continue to occur. The embassy continues to be on what is referred to as “unaccompanied tours” meaning that basically tours of duty are compressed and a visa officer is only staying in the country (on paper) for one year instead of the normal 2-4 year period. However unaccompanied tours also provide additional/special “R&Rs” (otherwise known as vacations) which then means that this official may only spend 10 months time in the country to which they have reported for duty. How does one truly learn the country in which they are serving and fully perform their duties in 10 months…especially when after month 6 or 7 they will likely start politicking for their next posting and position?

    Secondly as already pointed out by some earlier comments, yes, 9/11 still has its impact coupled with new procedures initiated on the part of Homeland Security which further delay processing of visas. This process if further compounded on the multiple ways in which Saudi family names can be spelled and add additional confusion when checking such names in databases of various US government organizations to ensure the individual does not appear to be a threat in any way to national interests of the USA.

    And lastly, for any embassy who interviews and/or processes hundreds of applicants each day, the fact is the visa officer may likely make up their mind on whether to accept or reject the applicate within the first 10 seconds of the interview depending on how the person looked; how they presented themselves; what kind of day the visa officer was having; or what was the visa officer’s mood.

    Don’t get me wrong; If one meets all qualifications for issuance of a visa they would likely receive their visa. However if it also appears at least on paper that all qualifications were met yet they were still rejected, then one may end up speculating and not really knowing why their visa was rejected….one will not necessarily be told that they are viewed as a potential threat because their name may be the same or similar to someone in a Homeland security database who was known not to be a friend of America…

    And responding to Don’s query, while there are excellent hospitals and medical care in KSA, most Saudis if they can afford it will travel out of the Kingdom for medical care. US physcians and well-known US medical facilities are still viewed as the best in the world, especially when an individual has a specialized disease or illness.

  8. Just I wonder how could Micro and Perry concluded that people in Saudi Arabia are brainwashed while surprisingly you are commenting in a blog by a Saudi!.

    I could strongly agree that lots of strong feelings arise in KSA due to internal reasons and external ones. However, all of that does not give anyone, including US embassy, the right to wrongly treat a Saudi not because he/ she is a “Saudi” but because they as such are human beings!.

    The letter written by Mr. Al-Tunisi was written, I believe, to highlight the problem in the media and not to solve the problem at the personal level.

    Either you like it or not, as many extremist live in KSA, clearly other countries/ faiths do have their share of crazy ones!.

  9. The real name for the DHS is Department of Clownland Security. Just another way to waste our tax $. We give KSA lots of $ for oil, so let them return some of it. The terrorist will get in no mater what we do.

  10. People who carry a mental baggage like Wahabite Saudi Arabs should never be allowed to visit, or be allowed to reside among the free peoples of the Western world:

    Non-Muslims have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.” If they do, “the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.” — Syed Abul Ala Maududi, founder of the Pakistani political party Jamaat-e-Islami

    “allah revealed Islam in order that humanity could be governed according to it. Unbelief is darkness and disorder. So the unbelievers, if they are not suppressed, create disorder. That is why the muslims are responsible for the implementation of allah’s Law on the planet, that humanity may be governed by it, as opposed to corrupt man-made laws. The muslims must make all efforts to establish the religion of allah on the earth”
    —Muhammad ‘Abdus Salam Faraj, “Jihad: The Absent Obligation”, p43.

    Stay put and don’t move!

  11. Ahmed: Carol is right in her description of the complications.

    Let me add to it:

    Take the personal level. Put yourself in the position of a Consular Officer, interviewing visa applicants. Now realize that if you make a mistake, it could cost the lives of thousands of your fellow citizens. Are you going to find it easier to say ‘Yes’ or “No’ on an ambiguous case?

    Add to that the fact that if you make a mistake, your acts are not going to be hidden. Instead, you will get a subpoena to appear before a Congressional committee (or three) to explain how you could have been so stupid. The Visa Officers who gave visas to the 9/11 Saudis were all hauled in to justify their positions. Luckily, they all did things according to the book and were not personally published. But the experience is educative; no one granting visas is going to be cavalier about it anymore.

    There is also the factor of a sense of major betrayal. Prior to 9/11, Saudis were among the best visa applicants in the world. Not only did they not become burdens on the US taxpayer, because they all had funding from somewhere, but 99.9% of them returned to the KSA when the purpose of their travel was done. As a result, it was exceptionally easy for Saudis to get a visa, far easier than most other Arabs.

    Perhaps this favored position led some to assume that was their natural right, when it fact is was a very special case.

    Post-9/11, there are many new circuits in the process to approve visas, starting with the presence of officials from DHS sitting in the Consular section, second-guessing every decision. And while many security databases have been merged since 9/11, theoretically simplifying clearance, the problems Carol noted are still very real.

    Carol also explains accurately the circumstances in which Consular Officers are working now. It’s also true that no visas are being issued (or interviews conducted) in Jeddah or Dhahran. Every Saudi’s request for a visa is being handled by the office in Riyadh. Security concerns won’t allow expansion of the section by much, certainly not outside the Embassy building proper.

    There are issues between the Embassy and the Saudi government concerning security in Jeddah. If those could be resolved, the Consular section at Jeddah could reopen.

    But rudeness is not acceptable, I agree. I do note, though, that what some Saudis consider rude, if directed at them, is nothing compared to how they treat others in return.

  12. Points well made, but as an American who has had extensive interaction at the Saudi Embassy here in the Metro DC area, I can tell you that the Saudi officials here are not always nice either.

    I have dealt with a couple of Saudis who work at the Embassy who were really nice and went out of their way, but they were the exception.

    It would seem like both sides have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to be decent.

  13. I sympathize with the Saudis on the visa issue, but does anyone need to be reminded that getting a visa to come to Saudi Arabia is even more difficult and usually impossible?

    If Saudis want to world to open up to them, they should reciprocate or stay in their closed country.

    I was hired to work in Saudi Arabia and even with that it took three months to get s visit visa (and that took wasta) and another six months to get an iqama.

    K2 — Getting a visa to any Latin American country is easy for most people, not just Americans. In fact, any country with a significant tourism industry practically gives them away. Same applies to a lot of Middle East countries. The problems arise when people from “Third World” countries try to get visas to “First World” countries.

  14. Also: I’d be curious to know what the Saudi response would be if 18 people from a particular country blew up a major landmark in Riyadh.

    Double standard?

  15. It is the height of hypocrisy for Saudis to complain that America makes it too hard for them to get in when Saudi Arabia is waging an undeclared war on America and the world at large. The 15 Saudi skyjackers of Sep 11 were carrying out the government-approved Wahhabi doctrine they learned in their mosques, media, and schools and were financed by Saudi money. Saudi Arabia is sending half the suicide bombers slaughtering crowds of innocent people in Iraq with the hopes that they can murder an American GI. These jihadis are recruited in government-run mosques by government-paid imams who send them on their way with their pockets full of government cash.

    To this day, you lying Saudis refuse to admit the inescapable fact of your guilt in launching this attack against us, among others. You still insist it was the Jews or Israel or Mossad or some such other hateful nonsense.

    Your embassy here in Washington distributes a pamphlet to Muslim terrorists that reminds them it is their religious duty to hate America and its democracy. Your embassy runs an Islamic school which has produced three terrorists and teaches its students that non-Muslims can never be their friends, that it is OK to hurt them and steal their property. One of the graduates of that Saudi-run school plotted to kill the president. Saudi Arabia sends Wahhabi imams to American mosques who preach hatred for America and distribute hate literature to all the mosques in America. In the mosques and prisons, your imams seek to organize Muslims to overturn our government in an insane scheme to turn America into a Sharia state.

    Perhaps if the Saudis did not subscribe to a death cult which hates everything non-Wahhabi and particularly preaches, trains, equips, and funds terrorists to mass murder Americans you might find yourself welcome in the civilized world. As it is now, we don’t want Saudi barbarians running loose in our country. You have proven your bad faith and hatred to us in the fullest measure. We’re not going to give you a second chance to do murder in our home.

  16. Just for the record: though I think it’s a double standard I do not ascribe to the anti-Saudi views of Tantor, though he’s right on one point: I should have said 15 Saudis not 18 in my previous post. Sorry.

  17. Considering the way Saudis are humiliated in US embassy, even the prominent media professionals, Why are Saudis so desperate to go to United States? The world is a massive place with many countries offering good health care and tourism opportunities. My opinion is they ‘seek’ humiliation for themselves.

  18. American war criminals wearing the cross who massacred so many in Asia during the 50s-70s could not live longer without drinking more blood. and now these war criminals are acting like killing machines in Iraq and Afghanistan murdering women and children. Some of the terroists that America created and sponsored bombed in their own backyard as they did in Oklahoma. The American government did everything it could to trrorise humanity even if it meant using nuclear weapons (japan) or chemical weapons (vietnam) and paid for them with the tax payer’s money in the name of christ! what do you expect from those KKKs who murderd native americans and took their land, killed and enslaved african americans for so long, treat all non white people as animals? this country is based on killing others! if you are not white christian, we have the right to kill you! and they sing these hate songs in their churches to be considered heros, sick!

  19. Micro, please note you and other iddiots like you that it is a fact known to everyone that is christianity is the relegion which created natzism and fascism and their logos was th cross! natzists and fascists mean christians!

  20. Tabuk Knight’s post is a perfect illustration of the kind of ignorant Saudi barbarian raised on a diet of Wahhabi hate that we don’t want in America or anywhere near it. To Americans, he represents what Saudis are all about.

  21. Aayedh: “Considering the way Saudis are humiliated in US embassy, even the prominent media professionals, Why are Saudis so desperate to go to United States? The world is a massive place with many countries offering good health care and tourism opportunities.”

    Aayedh, please don’t humiliate yourself by visiting the US embassy for a visa. Go somewhere else, anywhere else, but America. Saudis are not welcome here. We don’t want you walking our streets. We don’t want you shopping in our stores. We certainly don’t want to be flying next to you on an airliner. America is a safer and better place without Saudis.

    We’d much rather have visitors from China or Africa or South America, civilized people who do kill for their religion. You’ve demonstrated amply that when we invite you into our home, you see it as a chance to murder us.

    I invite you to go see Europe. I hear France is nice.

  22. Trentor, the Saudis and the Americans will not allow a massenger of the devil like yourself to poison their good relationship! get some education and do not speak for Americans, they do not need an iranian to speak for them!

  23. Tantor, in this world, there is so much hate, but there is also so much love. you represent hate. the Saudis are moslems and moslems were never a part of the hate movements such as kkk, natzism, fascism, zionism, and many more. We are proud of that. I really hope you will take that evil hate out of your heart and leave the hate cult you are part of and learn to love.

  24. That should have read:
    The Saudis will choose to ignore those who speak for the devil and preach hate, like they always do!

  25. To whom it may concern:
    The Saudis will choose to ignore those who speak for the devil and preach hate, like they always do!

  26. I’m Adel from Saudi Arabia. I say cut it off people. Saudis are Saudis and Americans are Americans. They are different, they don’t have to like each other, and by the way they won’t.
    I would say everyone should stay in his on borders, live by his rules and let alone the other. Americans should stop stuffing their nose in Saudi business and Saudis should not complain about a nation that doesn’t want them. Subhanallah it’s like “You are not welcome” and yet they are saying not we still want to come and you shouldn’t reject us. get a sense. Personally I wouldn’t take a chance by going to thee Jungle named America Shmerica and the rest of the Saudis shouldn’t. So that is it. Live happily and enjoy your lives away from each other. Hope no one get mad at : ). Peace.

  27. Tabuk Knight,

    What rich hypocrisy you exhibit when Al Qaeda is a product of your country and your particular Wahhabi death cult. Your country is pursuing a foreign policy of bloody religious imperialism, funding and equipping and training terrorists around the world. You would be herding animals somewhere were it not for America lifting you up out of abject poverty and ignorance. In return, you Saudis used every benefit we gave you to treacherously attack your greatest patron, an infamous act of evil that reveals the inhuman character of Saudis.

  28. Tantor,
    looks like you are having a heart attack! that is waht hate can do to you! Come to Saudi Arabia and we will teach how to love , and You will be natzism-free, fascism-free, and zionism-free.
    I gurantee you bee feeling much better!

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