Iraqi Ph.D. candidate still barred from U.S. entry due to documentation issue

Erin Douglas

CSU student Saddam Waheed’s dream to get a Ph.D. is still on hold as of Wednesday morning after a meeting at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, he wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Waheed was one of three international CSU students to be affected by President Donald Trump’s travel ban by executive order. After returning to Iraq to visit his family in January, Waheed found himself prevented from returning to the U.S. to continue his education. 

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Saddam Waheed (middle) is pictured with two Iraqi friends who also study at CSU. (Photo courtesy of Saddam Waheed)

Though a federal court put a restraining order on the ban Feb. 4, which allowed one student to return, Waheed has thus far been unable to attain his visa. He and his new wife, Maryam, were supposed to have an interview Wednesday morning at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, but were turned away again.

According to Waheed, the embassy would not allow them to complete the process to attain visas because it is missing Waheed’s DS-2019s, or the basic document used in the administration of the exchange visitor program. The documents were supposed to be sent by Waheed’s sponsor, the Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq (HCED). The HCED provides Waheed with a scholarship to study for his Ph.D. in the United States on the condition that he would return to Iraq upon completion of his degree.

However, the embassy has not received the documentation for the newly-wed couple from HCED, and according to Waheed, there has been a bit of confusion between the embassy and HCED.

“HCED has told me that I must send our DS-2019s through them… (But), the embassy told me that this is an old process, and I have to bring all my documents with me, not from HCED,” Waheed wrote.

The form is the first step for Waheed to return to the U.S. – it permits prospective exchange visitors to obtain an interview at a U.S. embassy, in order to obtain a J visa.

Waheed is a doctoral candidate studying hydraulic engineering at CSU. He decided to return to Baghdad last February after being away from his family for two years.

Thousands of other U.S. residents were stranded abroad by the immigration order, and are urgently attempting to re-enter the U.S. while the suspension of the travel ban is in place. The government is attempting to restore the ban, and appealed the restraining order to the US. Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit.

CSU President Tony Frank has expressed strong support for the students who are affected by the ban, and Waheed said the CSU community has been supportive.

“(My advisor) encouraged me to continue working on my dissertation, even though I’m far away from the campus,” Waheed said in an email with the collection Feb. 1. “It’s good that there are people around me and supporting me. That’s a good feeling. But, it’s still so hard.”

Waheed wrote that he has not yet received a response from HCED.

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Collegian News Editor Erin Douglas can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @erinmdouglas23.