(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch reaffirmed on Tuesday that the United States and Saudi Arabia share strong and positive relations that have been going on for decades, especially when it comes to consular affairs.
He revealed that there are ongoing discussions to develop and strengthen them in the coming years.
Responding to Asharq Al-Awsat, Risch revealed that more than 106,000 visas, 70 percent of which were granted to Saudi citizens, were issued in 2017. He stressed that restless efforts are spent on developing visa mechanisms and providing timely and reliable services for the embassy.
Risch expressed pride over strong and positive relations shared with Riyadh.
About 70 percent of US visas issued in Riyadh, Dhahran and Jeddah were for Saudi nationals. Some 77,910 visas issued to Saudis included visitation, work, and study passes.
Risch is on a tour to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
Meeting with counterparts, Risch will discuss a range of consular issues. While in the region, the diplomat also plans to review consular operations at US Embassies and Consulates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Amman, and to meet with inter-agency partners.
Stressing that US national security is a priority when issuing visas, Risch said that a vetting system looks into applications, making sure the applicant is eligible.
On the time it takes to land a US visa, Risch said that some requests are completed quickly, while others take longer. “But we want to be a reliable source for those who want to get visas from our representations anywhere in the world.”
He pointed out that all types of US visas are issued to Saudi citizens, but the most common are tourist visas and work visas for attending meetings.
Requests to visit families or friends and visas issued to Saudi students stand to prove the long history between the two countries, Risch added.