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Saudi women get U.S. ‘victim visas’ following family disputes

Published:

Five Saudi women living in the United States replaced their student visas with “victim visas” following disputes with male members of their families.

The women, whose change of status renders them ineligible for financial support from Saudi Cultural Bureau in Washington DC, were accompanying their families to the United States and went to court after they got into fights with their husbands or brothers, the Saudi edition of al-Hayat newspaper quoted a source from the bureau as saying.

One of those women, the source explained, is a student currently living with her children in an orphanage because of a dispute with her husband.

After the American court with which she filed a complaint ruled in her favor, she was not able to go back to her husband and since there were no guarantees of her safety if she returns to Saudi Arabia, she preferred to stay in the United States. She is now financially supported by the American government.

The source noted that the financial assistance granted to those girls, who are usually students themselves, varies from one case to another. It could come in the form of a job, an academic scholarship, or food and shelter as in the case of the orphanage.

The source said the embassy and the cultural bureau do their best to reach a peaceful resolution, but these efforts do not usually bear fruit.

“Many of the girls argue that they do not feel safe going back to their husbands or to their families in Saudi Arabia, so they opt for giving up their student visas and the financial assistance provided by the Saudi government and apply for the victim visa which allows them to stay in the U.S. and receive assistance,” the unnamed source said.

Women and children living in the U.S. are eligible for a victim visa under certain conditions, the most important of which is having been victims of specific crimes and having those crimes proven and reported.

The most common of the 26 crimes listed by the victim visa regulation are sexual harassment, rape, abduction, human trafficking, and torture.