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Saudi Arabia Places Travel Restrictions on Americans - 2002-10-07


U.S. officials have announced that Americans wanting to travel to Saudi Arabia may soon have to pay higher fees and limit the length of their stay. The announcement comes after United States recently issued new and stricter security procedures that directly affect many Arabs who want to visit the United States.

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh told Americans living in the kingdom that the proposed Saudi measures are in direct response to U.S. implementation of new immigration procedures that went into effect last week at all points of entry into the United States.

Upon arrival in the United States, selected visitors, including Saudis, are fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed by U.S. immigration authorities.

U.S. officials have said the new system is designed to identify visitors who might be deemed threatening.

On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued an advisory indicating that the government of Saudi Arabia may start requiring American citizens to be fingerprinted as part of their visa process. There is also a possibility, according to the advisory, that the duration of visas to Saudi Arabia will be shortened for American citizens and visa fees increased.

The new U.S. rules affect nearly all visitors from Iraq, Libya, Iran, Sudan and Syria, countries listed by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism.

In a later move, the list was expanded to include men from Saudi Arabia, the home country of 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers. And last week, U.S. officials in Cairo announced Egyptians could also be subjected to the new regulations.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that since January, the names of most men between the ages of 16 and 45 living in the Arab world are sent to Washington for FBI security checks. As a result, the visa approval process, which used to take seven to 10 days, now takes as long as three months. Additionally, the visa paperwork, formerly handled by travel agents, now requires personal interviews at U.S. consular offices.

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