Carl Risch, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs

Yasser Al Breakan (Riyadh Daily)
Carl Risch: National Security is the United States top priority when issuing visas

Assistant Secretary of State
for Consular Affairs Carl Risch revealed some issues relating to the consular
issues of Saudi citizens. He said during a meeting with a group of journalists
yesterday in Riyadh "I'm having a fine visit here to Saudi Arabia. I was the United Arab Emirates at the beginning of my trip. So I started in Dubai then to Abu Dhabi. I flew in the last night to here, Saudi Arabia. I visited today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for some talks then I met my staff at the embassy, learned about the system in place here and it is a fine visit so far.  I'm happy to answer the questions you may have about our operations. I have the chief of the consular section to answer specific questions about what happens here".

I would like you to speak about the international parental children abduction here in Saudi Arabia. Is there any statistic connected with this subject? What is the legal way to solve these issues between the Saudis and the Americans?

Regarding the issue of the international children abduction, we have strong relationship and a long-standing dialogue with the Kingdom and over the years we've built this strong relationship through lots of conversations and lots of agreements and we've seen these relationships improve over time to the point where we feel there's a path for people who find themselves in the same situation here and we're very thankful that the government has been so cooperative over the years and trying to find solutions to this difficult problem for families.

Why some applicants get their visa in few days while others take months to get them?

The national security is the United States top priority when issuing visas. So we often have a system in place to look at the application to confirm that applicants are qualified for their visas and make sure that people who apply for visas are getting the proper type of visa and they are qualified.

Sometimes the process to go through the application and check up everything goes quickly but in other times it could be longer. We strive here and all of our consulates and embassies around the world to provide speedy and accurate service, and we want to be reliable resource for people who are interested in visiting the United States that they can get their visas quickly and officially.

Security is our top priority to dedicate visas. We always say that every decision we make on a visa is national security decision but this security is always about making sure that people for the benefit and it can take time to go through an application and confirm facts that's necessary because we want to make sure that we are issuing more visas for study, for work, for visit, that people are getting the right type of visa and they are all qualified for that benefit.

What are the most common visas that are issued here in Saudi Arabia?

We issue all kinds of visas to citizens of Saudi Arabia. We issue tourist and business visas to people want to travel to the United States temporarily for business meeting or just for tourism, to travel or visit friends of family. This is very common to issue to citizens here in Saudi Arabia. 

We also issue student visas and we have a long history of Saudi students who traveled to the United States to study and we continue to welcome Saudi students and encourage people who are interested in studying in the United States to consider applying for student visas and resuming their education in America. 

We also issue temporary work visas in fields where temporary employment is possible.

Mr. Carl Risch speaking to a group of journalists in the US embassy

How many visas were issued by the US embassy in Saudi Arabia in the last year? Do you have figures for how many Saudis have the US citizenship?

I don't have these figures on how many are given citizenship, but if you are born in the United States, even the parents were just visitors, that child is automatically a US citizen. 

It is often difficult to determine whether or not a Saudi citizen might also have a claim to American citizenship, because we wouldn't keep necessary track of those who were born in the US at some point, or have some claim to it any other way.

As for the question about the number of visas issued in here, between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017 we issued 106933 visas for all nationalities. 

Citizens of Saudi Arabia everywhere in the world in the same time period, it was 77910, for tourist visas, student visas, temporarily work visas.

Within the US mission to Saudi Arabia, 70% of our applicants are Saudis. Of course in Saudi Arabia you have many nationalities at our visa window, but the majority is Saudis.

Can you tell us about any change in the US visa policy in Saudi Arabia? Do you have plans in the future to change this policy?

We always look for ways to improve the process. We continue to provide timely and reliable service here at the embassy and our other posts, and we just enjoy a strong positive relationship on visa issuance for very long time.

Saudi businessmen are interested in the American, so can you highlight the statistics regarding the business visa and also the procedure to make it more easier for the Saudi businessmen?

Well for these standard visas which we call (B1), it is usually issued at the same time with the tourist visa, and they are usually combined together in one visa. 

The application process is pretty straightforward. You can apply online, pay the fee, schedule interview, and the waiting period now is just a couple of days, three to four business days. 

Other types of visas could be considered business type visas that require more paper work, for example temporarily work visas, the (H1 B) visa, some of famous visa type that is used for employment, and specially the occupation in the United States, usually requiring college degree. 

Those visas are often more, there are a lot of paper work to go through those visas. For example, the petition must be filed by the employer first in the United States to sponsor the employee. 

So, an applicant can just decide to go on that visa and arrange the employment after arrival. The petition is filed first. The fees are paid first in the United States, after that it is approved by the Department of Home Security. 

That only at that point that an applicant can apply for a visa, so sometimes as considered as a business visa but is really an employment visa that requires a lot of paper work. 

The number of those visas is limited. There are 85000 visas a year, 65000 for most applicants, and then 20000 for those who have a US degree. And in some areas it gets complicated. Some industries are exempted from the cap but there are limits to the number in every year all the visas are utilized. 

If you don't get on this year, you have to wait and go through the paper work again.  There is much competitive for standard business visas, just to go to meetings, to sign an agreement, to make a contract. Those types of business visas are very easy to be processed.

For investment visas, there's no system here…It varies around the world.

Secret type of investor visa. There is a green card investor visa for permanent residency in the United States. 

A much larger investment called (EB 5) visa category, but that requires a substantial investment in the United States and also a lot of evidence the size and nature of the investment.

The majority of applications here are for tourists. Can you highlight the most common reasons for the rejection so applicants can avoid?

I can say on that issue that it is very important when someone applies for a visa anywhere in the world that they fill out the application completely and that they give honest answers to questions and that they are truthful during the interview and they are prepared to answer questions about their travel plans and about the answers that they give on the applications.

Do you see an increase in the visas issued especially after these strict measures adopted by the Americans?

Well, the policy of the United States on visas for citizens of Saudi Arabia has not changed. They are generally explained on our website for the ones who are interested in learning about the visa categories.

Are there fees for the visa?

There are no fees for the visa. 160 dollars are for the application but the visa itself is free. This is the lowest fees all over the world.

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