Restrictions on Saudis Entering US
The United States, a decade after al Qaeda 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...
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.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 01/06/2013
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