Saudi Arabia slows Canadian visa processing
Embassy Magazine, 30 November 2011
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Saudi Arabia is deliberately prolonging the processing of Canadian visas in a retaliatory move to protest what it says are too-slow processing times of Saudi visas to Canada. (Blog note: this should read "Saudi Arabia is deliberately prolonging the processing of Saudi visas in a retaliatory move to protest what it says are too-slow processing times of visas to Canada.")
The Saudi mission in Ottawa says officials brought the issue up to Canadian authorities. "The Kingdom's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to apply the principle of reciprocity in order to send a clear and strong message to our friends in Canada that the current situation is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue, hoping that they will understand and value the relationship the two countries share."
The Saudi decision, which went into effect Sept. 1, means processing of Canadian visa requests takes between 30 and 45 days. A message alerting Canadians to the change appears on the Saudi embassy website. "[T]he waiting period for issuing a visa to Canadian citizens wishing to enter the Kingdom has been prolonged to meet the same amount of time it takes Saudi citizens to obtain a visa from the Canadian embassy in Riyadh," wrote the spokesperson, who did not give their name.
But the added delay is already having an impact on some Canadians, said one director of a company that helps facilitate the visa process, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the situation. "The Saudis were very blunt; they said this is retaliation," said the director. "We used to be able to get visas same day—walk in at 10, pick it up at 2, at the Saudi Embassy." "The international oil companies are redeploying their Canadians elsewhere, oil fields that can use Canadian specialists but don't have the Saudi problem. And then they'll put in, say, Brits, people who've worked in the North Sea, because it doesn't take as long."
Saudi Arabia isn't the first country to retaliate against Canada using visa policy changes. Its neighbour in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, slapped new visa requirements on Canada last year during a dispute with Canada over landing rights at Canadian airports for its airlines.