Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Day 42: Why We Wait

Update (or lack of an update)
If you've been following my blog, you already know what "day 42" means--my 45 day visa wait (according to the Saudi embassy in Ottawa's time frame) is about to come to a close, inshallah (god willing). I am so incredibly anxious and excited. Anxious that everything will go through and there are no issues with my application, and excited that, any day now, I could be jumping on the next flight to Jeddah!
The elusive Saudi visa
I called my visa consultant yesterday, day 41, to see if she'd heard anything back from the embassy and to get a sense of how long visas are actually taking (since the embassy has said "30 to 45 days" I wondered whether any visas are approved sooner). She said visas are generally arriving back to her around or after day 41. She receives the FedEx delivery of visas daily at 3pm, so who knows...could today be the day my visa is stamped?

I'm trying to not to be too hopeful and be disappointed yet again. The whole process of applying, reapplying, and waiting for this visa has been emotionally exhausting, and has brought me to the point of exasperation more times than I can count. DH and I are trying to keep it together by skyping most days (as we have been doing for over 2 years now), and praying more than ever. Trying to trust in God's timing for our lives brings some peace of mind. That said, my consultant said that the embassy usually lets her know if there are problems with a visa application around the 30 day mark. I hope this means I'm in the clear!

One of my Canadian readers was kind enough to be in touch letting me know about his visa application process. A few weeks ago we were exchanging information and discussing the whole visa / waiting situation. He'd also been packed and ready to go for two months plus by the time his visa was stamped on the 45th day. Shout out to you, Rob, I hope you've made it to KSA safely!! Congrats on making it through the wait!

Political motives underlying visa wait times
If you're reading this, you might be interested in some of the research I've done (and verified with my visa consultant) about WHY Saudi visas for Canadians are so darned complicated. Having little else to do with my time while waiting, I've made it my mission to understand the politics of the 30 to 45 day wait imposed starting September 1, 2011. Why that date? What suddenly changed? What did Canada do to Saudi Arabia that brought them to implement a policy that is not only frustrating but seemingly ridiculous? Exploring all of these reasons has made me so many things--empathetic, frustrated, angry, and more knowledgeable about global politics and the intricate ways they can play out.

I've found four interesting details / developments that relate to the Canada / KSA visa escapade:

(1) Saudi Arabia is not the first to use visa restrictions / inconveniences to get back at Canada. In January 2011, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country that previously allowed Canadians to travel there without a visa, imposed a fee upwards of $200 for Canadians wishing to enter the country. "Increasingly strained relations between the two countries led to the new restriction on travel. Authorities in the UAE have cited both landing rigths and a lack of reciprocity as bases for the move." (http://www.moveoneinc.com/blog/immigration/enuae-revokes-visa-waiver-privilege-canadian-citizens/). I have no doubt that Saudi Arabia's reasoning for placing Canadians in the current visa situation is similarly politically motivated.
Political red tape.
(2) The recent "Ethical Oil" campaign that hit Oprah's "OWN" channel a couple of months ago, for instance, points to strained relations between Canada and KSA. The Ethical Oil campaign involves a controversial video (below) which suggests that women's rights in KSA are a compelling justification for boycotting Saudi oil--deemed "Saudi conflict oil"--and consuming Canada's oil instead. Watch it here:

Really? "Ethical oil?" How ethical is Canadian oil?

I could write a whole SERIES of blog entries on this topic exploring the endless ways in which this campaign is just so wrong. Wrong to somehow align women's rights with OIL when it's completely obvious that the real motivation is not one of genuine concern for Saudi women (if we even need to be concerned about them in such a flat out, problematically broad way) but about the desire to bolster the sale of Canadian oil in a troubled economic climate. It is beyond frustrating that women's rights are being posited in a way that uses them / us to propagate political and social agendas.

*If there's interest, I might blog on this more in another entry*

In any case, my rant aside, the "Ethical Oil" campaign naturally provoked a response from Saudi Arabia. They responded not only by attempting to censor the commercial from playing on Canadian tv, but by revoking a previously less painful visa application process.

(3) The 30 to 45 day visa wait is also related quite obviously to complaints Saudis have about obtaining their own visas to enter Canada for work, study or travel. It's been known to take literally months (from a month to over six months) for Canada to process Saudi visa requests. Accordingly, by imposing a similar wait on Canadians, Saudi Arabia is trying to push us to relax our own visa policies.

The most obvious evidence of the visa wait as a reactive force comes from the Canadian foreign affairs website that states: "Due to the number of applications we receive, we strongly recommend that you submit your application at least 45 days before your departure date. Processing time may be shorter" (http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/saudi_arabia-arabie_saoudite/visas/processing-traitement.aspx). The Saudi embassy in Ottawa makes an almost verbatim statement about Canadians wishing to apply for Saudi visas.

I was reading through a forum for Canadian visa applicants, and the stories and conversations are often heart-wrenching. Family members are separated, wives are pregnant abroad waiting to join their husbands in Canada, Saudi students often do not receive their visas in time to begin the school year, etc, etc. This really puts my situation in perspective. Yes, it's frustrating and challenging playing the waiting game and being separated from my husband, but I understand why Saudi Arabia is taking a stand for its citizens in this way. We'd want our government to do the same for us. Unfortunately, many people and families are caught in the middle of political conflict and unrest, having personally done nothing to warrant the horrendously long waits for visas.

(4) Finally, it is worth mentioning that Canada, in an apparent attempt to reconcile, has apologized to Saudi Arabia for delays in processing visas for Saudi nationals. Arab News reported that on October 9, 2011, the Canadian Ambassador to KSA, David Chatterson, issued an official apology to Saudis:
“The Embassy of Canada would like to take this opportunity to apologize for recent delays in issuing visas and for the negative impacts these might have had on Saudi applicants,” said a statement issued by the embassy on Sunday. The Canadian Embassy would like to assure the citizens of Saudi Arabia that it is working hard to reduce visa processing times,” it added."
Unfortunately, over a month later, the apology appears to have had little resonance with the Saudi embassy in Ottawa. We cannot expect changes to happen overnight, of course, but it appears that the prolonged visa wait is being systemically entrenched rather than rectified--the embassy has now noted that new applicants should submit their visa applications with only copies of their passports, and, after 45 days, will send a request for the passport. The stamped passport will be returned 10+ days later.

Could things get worse? Please, please, PLEASE let my application be approved on the first try!!!!!!!

I hope I’ll be able to write by Friday (day 45) with GOOD NEWS! Thanks for your thoughts & prayers, my amazing readers! I look forward to writing to you from Jeddah under a vibrant pink sunset! 


  1. Here's hoping for you, Julie. I just discovered your blog and look forward to following your journey. I'm praying the waiting part will soon end and the journey part is about to begin.

  2. Hi Julie,

    Just wanted to say I've made it safely to Saudi and now working on the Iqama. So far everything is great, work and otherwise. Need to start looking for my own place, I'm sure this isn't an issue for you.

    Hopefully the wait isn't long for you Julie !


  3. @Heather, thanks for your kind words & prayers! I, too, hope things come together soon!

    @Rob, so good to hear things worked out and you've arrived in KSA safely. I'm sure it's a busy time getting settled in and finding accommodations--I remember 2 years ago what my husband went through with all of that. Good luck & keep in touch!

  4. My consultant applied for work visa at saudi embassy Ottawa and waiting period(30-45 day) is frustating.


  5. Hi, I'm in a similar situation being waiting for KSA visa almost 60 days so far.I cant find the words to describe my feelings. I do hope that I finally will be able to travel. Wishing you all the best.

  6. Today marks the 46th day of waiting. This whole process is frustrating all thanks goes to our current government and their foreign policies. Canada really needs to stop thinking we have the same powers as the United States. The US can do whatever they feel like and not feel any retaliation. As for Canada they try to do the same thing but we always get jerked around ,example being the UAE visa implementation and now Saudi visa processing. Whats next?

    Word of advice for everyone, Vote NDP or Liberal next elections. This current government is horrible with foreign affairs.

  7. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    Canada has indeed made some interesting choices about its foreign policies with Saudi, as JB, you have pointed out. In any case, I do hope we all get to Saudi eventually...we'll just have to practice patience this time around. Inshallah, things will settle down in the near future!

    I think the Saudi embassy in Ottawa is still trying to organize itself around the new 30-45 day policy (and likely / obviously attempting to cause us retaliatory aggravation); however, I do have hope that they're getting a more efficient system up and running so that soon "45 days" will actually MEAN 45 days!(Wait...did I just suggest that there is a chance for efficiency??!!! One can hope...)

    Good luck to everyone!

    Julie - day 59

  8. wow julie your on day 59? Insha'allah I hope you get yours soon , mine has finally been processed and will be arriving to me this monday. I dont know why yours is taking extremely long.

  9. Hi Julie,
    Today is 60 days since I send in for my visa to the saudi Embassy in Ottawa.I
    'm so tired of waiting .

    Waiting patiently........

  10. JB,
    I don't know why either. My visa consultant managed to get in touch with the embassy to inquire about my application. It has apparently been approved and is awaiting official stamping. Hmm...Don't really know why they don't just stick the darn stamp on my passport and send it over!!!

  11. @Anonymous,
    I'm at the same point as you, 60 days today. I have no idea how people who've applied more recently than us are getting their visas and we aren't! My consultant said this is common--some people have been waiting longer than us and still don't have word yet, either... So it looks like there's no rhyme or reason for the embassy's order of processing applications. Completely arbitrary...and I guess it's just luck of the draw!
    Hang in there...and do let me know (everyone else, too!) if you have any news!

  12. Finally I got my visa yesterday after almost 60 days. So, there is always a hope for those who are still waiting.

  13. @ Anonymous--Yay! Congrats on getting your visa! 65 days for me now...and still waiting. It's great to know you've received it & that there's still hope for others, too!

  14. 66 days and still waiting......

  15. Wow--we visa-waiters really need a support group or something. Can't believe there are others who've been waiting as long as me! *sigh*

  16. Hi Julie,
    67 days and I'm still waiting, just wondering what's happening. I'm so tired of waiting... its too long. My visa agent said soon I will receive it, that a lady who applied 3 days before me got hers last week. He told me to hang on that soon I will get it.

    In Toronto waiting...