Monday, 09 February 2009, 12:48 GMT
U.S. to grant visa to Iraqi students

Students from Duhok University in graduation gowns are taking oath at the University's 12th graduation round ceremony. GLOBRE PHOTO/ Khidir Domle

The Kurdish Globe

Businessmen can apply for US travel documents in Baghdad

Iraqi students who plan to study abroad can be given opportunities at American universities across the US.

In an interview with the Globe, U.S. consul general, Jeffrey Lodinsky discusses the current U.S. visa status in Iraq. Lodinsky points out that the U.S. now has a fully functional embassy in Iraq, including a consulate section inside the embassy to meet the Iraqi people regarding their visa applications.

"The United States of America sees the future of Iraqi people in the eyes of young people," Lodinsky said adding that currently almost 1200 Iraqis where studying in American universities across the US.

The consul general also said that the embassy now can grant visa to any Iraqi citizen who plans to study in the United States of America.

Recently, Iraqi government decided to send 10, 000 Iraqi students abroad for further education. Lodinsky pointed out that the U.S. Fulbright Scholarship in Iraq is the largest in the world and it will become even bigger. He also said US government and Iraqi Higher Education Ministry are closely discussing the issue of sending 10, 000 Iraqi students abroad for future studies.

Regarding granting visa to Iraqi businessmen, Lodinsky said in the next several months Iraqi businessmen can also apply for visa in U.S. Baghdad embassy.

Meanwhile businessmen in Iraqi Kurdistan region are reluctant to travel to Baghdad and apply for travel documents due to security precautions, but Lodinsky said U.S. had no plans to give visa to Kurdistan region businessmen in their office in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital.

"Kurds should apply for U.S. visa in Baghdad," he said.

Currently, U.S. embassy is granting special immigrant travel documents to Iraqis who worked with the U.S. military and government for at least one year.

"U.S. is going to give 25, 000 special immigrant visas to Iraqi people during five years," the consul general said. Iraqis, who worked with the U.S. army and government for at least one year, will be interviewed in Baghdad, after that their family and children will receive visa, Lodinsky said.

He mentioned that there are no plans for direct flights between the U.S. and Iraq due to safety measures. Still the consul predicted good future bonds between the two nations.

"The future of our relations with Iraq is very strong."

Meanwhile, under the sponsorship of the U.S. Embassy and Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education, seven Iraqi university presidents will travel to the United States from February 3-13 to attend the American Council on Education's (ACE) national conference and to meet with senior education officials in the U.S. The goal of this visit is to establish linkages between American and Iraqi universities.

The university presidents, representing the universities of, Anbar, Babil, Baghdad, Dhi Qar, Dohuk, Kirkuk, and Kufa will attend the 91st Annual Meeting of the American Council on Education, which is the pre-eminent association of American university educators. Following this meeting, and with the support of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the seven university presidents will travel to North Carolina State University, Ohio State University, and Texas A&M University to meet with university officials.

"This is an important and historic visit. It will lead to enduring partnerships between American and Iraqi universities. This is the peace dividend we have all been waiting for and was made possible by the Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and the U.S.," said U.S. Embassy Counsellor for Public Affairs Ambassador Adam Ereli.

Iraq's Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Abid al-Ujayli praised the visit, noting that linkages between Iraqi and American universities will allow faculty training and exchanges, joint research, graduate and undergraduate student training and exchanges, curriculum enhancement, access to funding, promotion of intercultural understanding, capacity strengthening, access to professional networks, expansion of research interests and fostering of international relationships.

The diplomatic relations between the U.S and Iraq ended in 1991 as Iraq's former ruler Saddam Hussein occupied the neighbouring Kuwait.