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Obama administration ends post-9/11 restrictions on Saudis entering U.S.

Special to WorldTribune.com

ABU DHABI — The United States, a decade after Al Qaida strikes in
New York and Washington, has opened its doors to Saudi nationals.

Diplomats said the administration of President Barack Obama has removed
most restrictions on the entry of Saudis to the United States. They said the
percentage of visa approvals for Saudis has reached unprecedented levels.

“The United States aims to raise the number of visas that it issues
annually, particularly to Saudi nationals, who represent an important
group,” Joseph Hood, U.S. consul-general in the Saudi city of Dhahran, said.

Hood cited economic reasons for the easing of restrictions on Saudis. He
said Saudi businessmen and students have been allowed to enter the United States in record numbers, with a 60 percent increase since 2010.

“They form a large segment of travelers to the United States, while they
also represent an important economic factor,” Hood said. “In addition, Saudi Arabia also sends a large number of students to the United States, and the number of Saudi students in the United States rivals those from India.”

The U.S. consulate in Dhahran reported issuing 100 visas per day to
Saudis. In 2012, the total number of visas reached 21,000, nearly 30 percent
of which went to Saudi students or their relatives. About 15,000 Americans
were reported to be based in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province.

The administration decision came amid a series of incidents in which
Saudis were implicated in criminal and security offenses. In February 2011,
a Saudi student was arrested on charges of plotting to bomb the home of
former President George Bush in Texas. Diplomats said more than 70,000
Saudis were registered as studying in the United States.

Earlier this month, a sergeant in the Royal Saudi Air Force was arrested on
charges of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Las Vegas. Mazen
Alotaibi was identified as a member of a U.S. training program of Saudi
military personnel at the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland near San Antonio,

But diplomats said the rate and process of approvals would be enhanced
in 2013. They said the United States has approved more than 95 percent of
visa applications for Saudi Arabia. Those rejected were told they had
provided insufficient documentation.

“The consulate has gotten rid of many of the negativities that
occasionally contributed to the delay in the visa application process,
including the language factor, hiring staff that excel in speaking Arabic
and English to facilitate our dealings with visa applicants, especially
those who aren’t fluent in English, particularly as it is mandatory for all
visa applicants to be interviewed,” Hood was quoted by the Saudi media as
telling a news conference in December.

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1 Comment for “Obama administration ends post-9/11 restrictions on Saudis entering U.S.”

  1. In years past, the Saudis have denied visas to US citizens of the Jewish faith. The US government not only did not protest that discrimination, it acquiesced by not assigning personnel of the Jewish faith to Saudi duty. The Saudi version of Islam, the Wahabi, teaches death to the Jews and infidels. In view of that, it seems only prudent that the US government should require each Saudi who applies for a US visa to sign an affidavit that they are not coming to the US to kill Jews and infidels. Unless, of course, the US government chooses to acquiesce to the Saudi promise of death, as it did with the issuance of visas to its Jewish citizens.