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Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia top MidEast recipients of US visas in 2022

Citizens from the MENA region received about 480,000 non-immigrant visas, or about 7% of the total 6.8 million visas issued globally.
A sign directs pedestrians towards the United States on January 16, 2019 in Tijuana, Mexico. Thousands of people from Mexico and Central America, many who arrived in caravans, hope to cross the border daily into America. The U.S. government is partially shut down as President Trump is asking for $5.7 billion to build additional walls along the U.S.-Mexico border and the Democrats oppose the idea. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

DUBAI — Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia received the most non-immigrant visas to the United States in the Middle East in 2022. The US State Department's annual report released on Saturday, registered 29 visa types ranging from visiting athletes, tourists and doctors to victims of human trafficking and people transiting through. 

What happened: Saudi Arabian citizens were granted 52,775 non-immigrant visas in 2022, making theirs the Arab country to receive the most visas of that kind last year. 

Israel and Turkey, the only non-Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region aside from Iran, ranked higher than Saudi Arabia with 141,032 and 72,178 visas, respectively. 

Here are the top 10 Middle East and North Africa countries in non-immigrant US visas in 2022: 

  1. Israel: 141,032

  2. Turkey: 72,178

  3. Saudi Arabia: 52,775

  4. Egypt: 52,400

  5. Jordan: 22,572

  6. Morocco: 18,853

  7. Kuwait: 18,617

  8. Lebanon: 17,223

  9. UAE: 15,640

  10. Algeria: 13,293

Libya received the lowest numbers of visas for a MENA country, with a total of 1,438. Other war-torn countries were at the bottom of the list. Those include Yemen (2,670), Sudan (3,083), Syria (4,059) and Iraq (5,171). The Palestinian territories received 7,241 visas, while Tunisia receive 6,343, Oman 3,724, Bahrain 4,417 and Qatar received 6,875 visas. 

Iran which has no diplomatic relations with the US since 1979 saw its citizens receive 10,422 visas. 

Citizens from the MENA region received about 480,000 non-immigrant visas, or about 7% of the total 6.8 million visas issued globally.

Why it matters: The US State Department announced in January of this year that Israeli tourists may qualify for visa-free travel to the United States, but only if it halts discriminatory practices against Arab Americans.

The United States' conditions for Israel's visa waiver include that the Israeli government share security data about its citizens and to allow Palestinians with US passports to land freely at Israel's airport on their way to the occupied West Bank. 

The Passport Index's Global Passport Power Rank 2023 found the United Arab Emirates as having the strongest passport globally. With a mobility score of 180, UAE citizens can travel to 123 countries visa free. The United States is one of the 18 countries for which Emiratis still need to apply for a visa. 

Saudi Arabia, which ranked third in US visa issuances last year, received a high number per capita in comparison to other countries. The kingdom has an estimated population of 36.33 million and acquired 52,775 US visas in comparison to Egypt, which has more than 105 million people and received a similar total of 52,400. 

Countries in crisis such as Libya, Yemen, Oman and Syria received some of the lowest visa issuances for its citizens, many of whom are affected by ongoing wars. 

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