UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 000697
DEPT FOR NEA/ARPI, NEA/PPD, NEA/P, AND IIP/G/NEA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OEXC OIIP SOCI PREL MU
SUBJECT: SPECIAL OMAN ONLINE: A/S HARTY RESPONDS TO AL-SABLAH
PARTICIPANTS ON STUDY IN THE U.S. AND VISA PROCEDURES
Â¶1. Summary: The Omani Internet chat rooms "al-Sablah" and "al-
Majarra" are the liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic-language
fora for political and social discourse in the country, touching
on issues and personalities rarely addressed in the conventional
media. While not totally free, nor wholly reflective of Omani
public opinion, these popular sites nevertheless offer a
worthwhile window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of
the day. This edition of Oman Online contains the following
-- The truth about U.S. visa applications and encouraging Omani
students to study in the U.S.
Â¶2. During her April 8-10 visit to Oman, Assistant Secretary of
State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty responded to questions
from al-Sablah members about educational opportunities in the
United States as well as U.S. visa application procedures. In
the process, she also addressed misperceptions that the United
States no longer welcomes Arab visitors and that the visa process
is beset by long delays.
The Dialogue Begins
Â¶3. One al-Sablah member greeted A/S Harty stating, "We welcome
you to al-Sablah and thank you for agreeing to talk with us
frankly about visa issues and study in the U.S." A/S Harty
responded, "Thank you for this opportunity to dialogue with you.
It is just this type of freedom of expression that we value and
treasure in the United States. We need not always agree.
Indeed, decisions made by our friends around the world may be
upsetting to us from time to time, but it is critical that the
Myth Busting and Fact Sharing
Â¶4. A/S Harty's participation in the discussion generated a great
deal of online interest. Although a fair number of members chose
to use the Assistant Secretary's presence on the site to critique
U.S. foreign policy, many others expressed genuine concerns about
visa procedures, the process of clearing immigration upon arrival
in the U.S., and anxiety about perceived anti-Arab sentiment in
America. One al-Sablah participant asked, "Why is it that Arabs
are automatically considered suspect? Why are they susceptible
to long detentions even if they are only suspected of being a
threat? What guarantee is there that innocent Omani students
will not be treated in this way?" A/S Harty helped to calm the
fears of al-Sablah members by providing factual information about
the visa process and immigration procedures. She explained the
safeguards that are in place to protect people suspected of
crimes, and stressed that the new U.S. immigration procedures
protect not only Americans, but also everyone in the United
States, reminding her interlocutors that people from 90 different
countries were killed in the September 11 attacks.
Â¶5. The following is a summary of representative questions and A/S
Harty's responses to them:
Does the U.S. Embassy offer scholarships for Omani postgraduate
students wishing to further their studies in America?
-- Yes, the U.S. Embassy administers a number of competitive U.S.
government scholarship programs for Omani students who want to
study in the U.S. Under the programs, students can obtain
Bachelors, Masters, or Ph.D. degrees. Information about these
programs is available on the Embassy web site www.usa.gov.om.
The names of two programs related closely with higher education
opportunities in the United States are the following:
- The Fulbright Foreign Student Program, which provides
scholarships to individuals interested in pursuing graduate
degrees in the United States;
- The Partnerships for Learning Undergraduate Studies program
(PLUS), which provides scholarships for students who wish to
pursue bachelor degrees in the liberal arts, humanities, and
Do American universities offer scholarships for postgraduate
study to foreign students?
-- Yes, many American universities offer scholarships to foreign
students for study at all levels. I recommend that you contact
the universities directly regarding their policies. Should you
require assistance, you may also contact the Educational Advisor
at the U.S. Embassy.
How can I apply for a scholarship?
-- There are several ways to learn about scholarships. I
recommend that you begin by reviewing the web sites of
universities that interest you. These sites often list
scholarship opportunities provided by the institutions, their
eligibility requirements, and their application process. Another
option is to contact or visit the U.S. Embassy's Educational
Advisor to discuss scholarship opportunities for Omani nationals.
The Educational Advisor can be reached at the following number:
24-698-989 ext. 201 or www.usa.gov.om.
If I want to change my visa from a work visa to a study visa,
will I have to pay a fee? Is it difficult to change one's visa
-- The answer to these questions will depend on your particular
circumstances. I suggest you contact the Consular Section at the
U.S. Embassy and explain your situation to them. They will be
able to advise you with more accuracy. You can contact the
Consular Section at the following number: 24-698-989 ext.
Will I be able to get a student visa? I hear the process takes a
-- More than 98 percent of Omani applicants for U.S. student
visas obtain them and the vast majority of the visas are issued
in 24 hours.
Is it true that Arab and Muslim students are mistreated in the
U.S., especially since September 11?
-- The U.S. continues to welcome Arab and Muslim students. Many
colleges and universities have active Muslim student associations
that provide members with social and religious networks. In
addition, there is a high degree of respect for religious and
cultural differences throughout U.S. society. It is unfortunate
that media reports of a few isolated incidents of intolerance
following September 11 have left an erroneous impression that
Americans are hostile toward Arabs. Nothing could be further from
Communication & Understanding
Â¶6. A/S Harty concluded her dialogue with al-Sablah members
stating, "We want Omanis to come to the United States to better
understand us as a nation in the same way that I have come to
Oman to better understand Oman, its people and culture. I very
much appreciate the hospitality of the many Omanis I was able to
meet during this visit. I am eager to underscore the United
State's strong desire to cement the very firm and enduring
friendship we share with the good people of Oman."
Â¶7. The Embassy's Consular Section will continue to respond to
questions raised as a result of A/S Harty's participation in the