The Importance of Visas

Captain Judy Rice in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Khalid, Prince Sultan’s special guide with Captain Judy Rice during her round-the-world flight

The voice on the other end stated in a heavy accent, “I did what I could, and it’s out of my control…

I’d been asleep about two hours before being awakened by the call. We had a long day and an early departure in the morning for Saudi Arabia. The voice on the other end stated in a heavy accent, “I did what he could, and it’s out of my control.” He further reported that our landing permit was denied due to a Visa issue.

This was the third time the Saudi Arabia Visa office denied our entry. I was in the United States for the first two denials, allowing time to visit the Embassy and locate Prince Sultan. Now, less than five hours before our intended Saudi Arabia landing, this was going to be a challenge to resolve.

Tourist Visas did not exist in Saudi Arabia at the time of my world flight. We were Prince Sultan’s guest and granted a Special Visitor Visa. The Prince is an avid pilot owning numerous aircraft. It was through his camaraderie that we were able to land and visit his lovely country.

I was now wide-awake and started making phone calls, the first to Rey’s cell phone. Rey was the Prince’s personal assistant. He reported that most of the palace was on holiday, including the Prince. He’d do his best to locate the Prince. It was even later in the night when I received a call from Prince Sultan apologizing, stating the matter was resolved. I slept soundly for the remaining two hours knowing we were on the way to Saudi at sunrise.

Visas are a critical requirement for entry into a country, even for a guest of a Prince. During my world flight, most Visas were either a tourist Visa or Special Visa. Tourist Visas generally are issued for a short stay and often include specific requirements while in the country. Another example of a Special Tourist Visa would be my flight into Cuba. Cuba granted a tourist card stating prohibited areas for visitors.

As I nearly experienced in Saudi, Visas do not guarantee the visitor entry into a country. This is true for all countries, including the United States. The immigration official at the port of entry determines eligibility into their country. Entry for international students into the United States requires one of two Visa options, the F1 and the M1.

The M1 Visa is issued to students who are going to attend a non-academic or vocational school. Epic has approval to issue the M1 Visa as a technical and vocation program. Students are not permitted to work until training has been completed while studying on the M1. The M1 work approval is very difficult to receive. It is costly, and fees are non-refundable with a long response on denial or approval, and work is permitted for only a short time in the field of study.

The F1 Visa allows employment in the United States for full-time students attending an accredited college or university. Students must maintain a full course load as a full-time student. The student may be granted part-time, on-campus employment with limited hours, and the work must be practical training not available in their country.

There are many types of Visas in the United States and other countries. Visa legal advisors are often hired to assist with understanding the process for obtaining a Visa. At Epic, students are provided the M1 Visa and the highest quality flight training programs with achievable, concise goals.

-by Captain Judy Rice