State Department Revises Employees' Family Residency Policy in Kingdom
SUSRIS -- June 28, 2009 -- The U.S. State
Department, citing a "greatly improved security environment" in Saudi Arabia, revised its policies governing residency of employees' family members in the Kingdom in a June 26 announcement. The Bureau of Consular Affairs "Travel Warning," posted to the Department's Web site, said all family members were authorized to return to the
Consulate General in Dhahran and adult family members and non-school age children were authorized to return to the
Embassy in Riyadh. The State Department employees at the
Consulate in Jeddah will continue to serve unaccompanied tours.
The announcement recognized the improved security climate in the Kingdom, especially in the Eastern Province and Riyadh, but cautioned that "there remains an ongoing security threat due to the continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al
Qaida." The travel warning, in addition to noting the status change for State Department families, provides information and recommendations for other American citizens traveling to Saudi Arabia.
In October U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ford Fraker told SUSRIS that he was satisfied with security conditions in the Kingdom and that Washington was pursuing a program to return employees' families. He said the security situation there was compatible with Americans working, living and visiting Saudi Arabia and he recounted the progress made, "We're in stage three of a return of families program. In September 2007, I got approval for stage one - adult family visitation for two week visits. This was followed by stage two - approval for all family members to visit for two weeks." Fraker said the embassy in Riyadh was pursuing a program of return of families, "The first step will be the return of adult family members and a move to a two-year posting."
Ambassador Fraker, who completed his posting as America's top diplomat in Riyadh in April 2009, told
SUSRIS in the exclusive interview that the family visitation and residency policy served as an important signal to American businesses. The wording of State Department travel warnings, he explained, made it difficult in some cases for business people to have visits approved by their corporate officials. Fraker said that, "An executive would say that he was going on a business development trip to Saudi Arabia and his corporate lawyer would say no you're not because you are not covered." He noted that, "The travel warning has been rewritten so there are no legal impediments now, as far as corporate insurance to prevent executives from traveling to the Kingdom."
In April 2004 Washington evacuated many "official" Americans from the Kingdom and "strongly urged" other American citizens to leave over concerns that terrorists were planning attacks. A terrorist campaign had been launched by
al Qaida against the Kingdom and Western interests in March 2003 with an attack on residential compounds in Riyadh that left 27 victims dead and 160 people injured. Among other
al Qaida acts was the December 2004 strike at the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. Five non-American employees were killed in the attack at the compound. The attacks were met with countermeasures by Saudi Arabia such as determined security and law enforcement efforts as well as a campaign to undermine the terrorists' ideology. These efforts were outlined in this year's
U.S. State Department "Annual Report on
Terrorism," which noted, "The Saudi government continued to build its counterterrorism capacity and efforts to counter extremist ideology."
- U.S. State Department Travel Warning - Saudi Arabia - June 26, 2009
- State Department Annual Report on Terrorism - SUSRIS IOI - May 2, 2009
- Country Report on Terrorism 2008 - Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism - April 30, 2009
- Country Report on Terrorism 2008 - Full Report - PDF
- Saudi Contributions to Counterterrorism - SUSRIS IOI - May 2, 2009
- US-Saudi Counterterrorism Collaboration - SUSRIS IOI - May 2, 2009
- SUSRIS EXCLUSIVE - Moving in the Right Direction - A Conversation with Ambassador Ford Fraker - Part 3
- SUSRIS EXCLUSIVE - The Diplomacy of Business - A Conversation with Ambassador Ford Fraker - Part 2
- SUSRIS EXCLUSIVE - Managing the Marriage - A Conversation with Ambassador Ford Fraker - Part 1
- Militant Crackdown: Plots and Arrests - SUSRIS IOI - Jun 26, 2008
- Extremist Reeducation and Rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia - Christopher Boucek - SUSRIS IOI - Aug 17, 2007
- Terrorist Attack at Abqaiq Oil Facility Thwarted - SUSRIS IOI - Feb 25, 2006
- Saudi Government's National Campaign Against Extremism - Fact Sheet - March 2005
- U.S. Consulate, Jeddah Attacked - SUSRIS - Special Report #2 - Dec 7, 2004
- Evacuation Is Ordered for Most U.S. Diplomats in Saudi Arabia - SAF - Apr 16, 2004