By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
The US diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia announced that they have resumed processing existing visa applications and schedule appointments for new ones after a US federal court order effectively suspending the travel ban for citizens of Muslim-majority countries imposed by President Trump.
“The US Department of State had, under the executive order, provisionally revoked all valid visas of nationals of those seven countries, with limited exceptions. That provisional revocation is now lifted, and those visas are now valid for travel to the United States if the holder is otherwise eligible,” said Johann Schmonsees, a spokesman for the US embassy here, on Tuesday.
Schmonsees said that “individuals whose visas are expired, or were canceled, must apply for a new visa at a US embassy or consulate, absent a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) decision to grant parole or waive the visa requirement at the port of entry.”
The applicants can submit their applications at the Riyadh-based US embassy or at the Jeddah-based US Consulate.
A statement posted by the US embassy on its website said that “we are working closely with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and we will provide further updates as soon as information is available”.
“On Jan. 27, 2017, President Trump signed the ‘Executive Order 13769 on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,’ which directs us to review current screening procedures,” the statement added.
The statement further said that the US government’s screening and vetting procedures for visitors are constantly reviewed and refined to improve security and more effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the US.
“We welcome every opportunity to continue to review and improve our systems and procedures,” said the statement.
The US embassy, located in Riyadh in the Diplomatic Quarter, and the Jeddah consulate offer visa services from Sunday through Thursday.
The US diplomatic missions will be closed on Feb. 19, a holiday in the US, according to the US embassy website.
Trump’s order applied to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, all Muslim-majority countries that the administration said raise terrorism concerns.
The US State Department said last week that as many as 60,000 foreigners from those seven countries had had their visas canceled.