By Salim Salman - Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat – The US embassy in Riyadh revealed that 110,000 Saudi nationals applied for a visa to visit the US in 2011, an increase of 25,000 from the previous year. The embassy also revealed that 93 percent of these visa applications were approved, and 75 percent of visa application approvals were issued within one week.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the US embassy’s Non-Immigrant Visa Chief, Robin A. Busse said that the most common reason that the US embassy refuses certain visa applications is due to the applicant failing to provide accurate and correct information. He also attributed any delay in decisions on visa application to the vigorous administrative procedures that US visa application must undergo, as these must adhere to the strict immigration policies of the United States.
Busse indicated that the majority of Saudi university students who were denied student visas to visit the US were denied because applicants had failed to provide the necessary documentation to prove they had a place at a US university. He also stressed that the financial guarantee covering the costs of the students university fees is a requirements that the visa applicant must provide to the US embassy.
Busse said that one of the reasons that visa applications were turned down was because the applicant had failed to take the application process seriously, he stressed that a rejection or delay was due to the applicant, not the US embassy.
He also called on Saudi students to apply as soon as possible for student visas to the US, saying this should be not less than 3 months before their course is set to begin,
He also revealed that the US embassy is required to check all the required documentation, as well as interview the visa applicant, revealing that some visas are rejected due to the applicant’s failure to provide accurate answers at this stage.
As for claims that some questions contained on the visa application form are offensive, such as questions whether the applicant has every had any involvement with a terrorist organization or prostitution, he stressed that these questions are asked by US embassies across the world, under the US immigration act and approved by US congress.
For his part, US Consul General at the US embassy in Riyadh, Glen Keiser revealed that the number of Saudi Arabian nationals applying for visas to visit the US has risen by 100 percent over the past 4 years. He also revealed that more Saudi Arabians apply for visas to visit the US than any other nationality around the world.
Statistics also revealed that 66,000 of the 110,000 Saudi visa applicants in 2011 applied for a visa at the Riyadh embassy, and that approximately a quarter of these applicants were seeking to study in the US.
Keiser also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US visa application process is currently under review to make this faster and easier, and that this review is expected to make 35 percent of administrative procedures redundant.
Keiser added that the number of Saudi nationals seeking to obtain a visa to the US fell sharply following the 9/11 attacks, but this rose to and even outstripped previous levels in the subsequent years as relations improved between the two countries. Keiser said that the majority of visas to the US are granted to the private sector, and that 3 out of 4 Saudi applicants are businessmen.