Visa trouble keeps student from SDSU after trip to Pakistan


Doris Haugen – Associated Press Writer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Four weeks after Faisal Mustafa thought he’d be back at South Dakota State University from a visit to family in Pakistan, the computer expert and student still is waiting for immigration officials to give him permission to return to the United States.

Mustafa left South Dakota for Pakistan in late July and had planned to arrive back in Brookings at the end of August.

Now with his visit over and his job waiting, he is wondering how much longer he will have to wait.

“I am frustrated and at times angry as well,” Mustafa said in an e-mail interview from Pakistan. “I have a life back there. I’ve got bills to pay. The extra time I am taking off is all unpaid, and no one seems to understand that.”

Mustafa, who first came to SDSU in the spring of 1999, said he thought his visa had been approved and that all he needed to do was have it stamped for re-entry once he was ready to leave Pakistan.

But when he sent it in on July 26, he was called for an interview and told his visa was being sent to Washington, D.C., for clearance. When he asked how long the processing might take, Mustafa said no one could give him a definite answer.

“So far it’s been four weeks and I have not heard anything back from them,” Mustafa said.

Lewis Brown, dean of the College of Engineering at SDSU, where Mustafa works part-time as a computer specialist, hopes the travel snafu can be worked out.

“We’re still patiently waiting for him to get the green light to come back,” said Brown.

Because of tighter security measures since the terrorist attacks three years ago, Mustafa had built extra time into his travel schedule for possible delays.

“But these problems escalated into a far bigger delays than anyone was expecting,” said Brown.

Mustafa said the wait has been costly as well as unnerving. He had to cancel his nonrefundable plane tickets from Pakistan to the United States and absorb fees and other travel costs because of the delay.

“No one really notified me about the delay formally. No one called or wrote anything. They asked me when do I have to be back, and I told them I took time off till August 21st, but that didn’t seem to have any effect,” said Mustafa.

Brown said Mustafa received an undergraduate degree in computer science from SDSU and is now working on a graduate degree. He also oversees the College of Engineering’s computers, network and servers, said Brown.

The college understands the need for caution in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Brown. But he is sorry the delay had to happen to one of the college’s own.

“We want our government to be very cautious even for the people we know very well,” said Brown. “We’re not distraught over the delay, we want the background and checking to be done right.”

Meanwhile, Mustafa said he has been trying to do some work by e-mail or telephone. The long-distance consulting has been appreciated, said Brown.

“He’s just been a super person even though he’s not here,” he said.