US visa delays ruining education of many Ibtisam Sheqdar
| Arab News MAKKAH:
A group of Saudi students in the US has launched a campaign to monitor problems faced by them when they return to the Kingdom on short breaks. These students are forced to reapply for visas at the US Embassy in Riyadh, a process that often takes several months if successful.
Organizers of the campaign, entitled “My Visa Threatens My Future,” say they wish to also create awareness about the problems faced by Saudi students in the US who, fearing the lengthy visa process in Saudi Arabia, remain in the US continuously for years to complete their education.
“The campaign does not intend to challenge the standards according to which visas are issued,” said Basil Al-Sadhan, one of the organizers.
“Acquiring visas is a nightmare for many students. The campaign intends to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by students and the negative effect that these difficulties have on their studies,” he said.
He added that the campaign would complement the efforts of the Saudi Embassy as well as the Saudi Cultural Mission in communicating the problems faced by Saudi students to US officials.
“The recent change in visa regulations extending the length of US visas to five years is one positive outcome of these talks. ... There are other improvements in how long it takes to process visas with some students receiving theirs within a couple of weeks. We are, however, aware of many cases in which students wait for months, sometimes even a year, without any reason,” he said.
“It’s these types of delays that cause many to remain in the US for several years in spite of emergencies back home,” he added.
Miteb Al-Mutairi, who is co-chairing the campaign, said the group aims to inform US agencies about the difficulties they face. “We also intend to give Saudi students advice and tips about the regulations they need to follow when applying for visas or while living in the States,” he said.
“We have no intention of challenging the criteria at which visas are issued. ... US officials have every right to deny entry to anyone they think is not suitable to enter their country. We’re hoping to simplify the bureaucratic process of evaluating visa applications,” he added.
As part of the campaign, Saudi students are being surveyed and asked to provide details of the difficulties they have faced. The results will be made public and shared with official bodies.
The group has also taken the help of an immigration lawyer to produce a pamphlet on tips for students when being interviewed at the US Embassy.
Muhaidb Al-Muhaidb, who lives in ****eville, Tennessee, said he decided not to visit the Kingdom because of delays in reissuing visas in Riyadh. “After hearing of students facing significant visa delays, I decided to remain here until my studies finish. It has been two years since I last visited Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Muhaidb.
One student from Minnesota said, “I lost my best friend and my cousin while here in the US. I spent that distressing time myself apart from my family. I could not say goodbye to them nor see them for the last time.”
Bandar, who is studying in Oregon, said he has been in the US for 19 months.
“I’ve not been able to return home because I’m afraid of getting stuck. Because of that, my health has suffered and I now suffer from severe headaches and psychological stress which have negatively affected my academic performance,” he said.
Fouad in Kansas City said, “At least five of my relatives have passed away while I’ve been in the US. My mother got diagnosed with cancer. I’ve been unable to return, something that has caused me to get low GPAs.”
A student from Texas said his fiancé broke off their engagement. “I lost the woman for whom I waited 18 years. It’s something that has left me brokenhearted ... America gave me a degree, but took my dream and life away.”
Omar Bafakeeh wanted to travel to the Kingdom to marry his fiancée. Fearing he may not be able to return, Bafakeeh’s fiancé flew to Pittsburgh with her parents for the marriage. None of the groom’s parents and relatives was able to attend and share the couple’s joy.
A student from Missouri said, “I am in a situation that only God knows about. I am only seven months away from graduating and getting my MA. I have a 45-day holiday, but I can’t go back because of everyone’s nightmare — visa renewal. My dad is very ill and I’m unable to go and see him.”
Students wishing to join the campaign can get further details at www.saudiforum.us/visa.
نرجو من الإخوة والأخوات التعليق على الخبر في موقع الصحيفة
إخوانكم وأخواتكم، فريق حملة الملتقى السعودي بأمريكا لمتابعة مشاكل التأشيرات