An Arabic language professor from the United States has been left stranded in Canada for more than two months, unable to return to his San Francisco job after his visa was abruptly cancelled.

On June 20, Mohammad Ramadan Salama, 38, arrived in Canada hoping to upgrade his student visa to one given to non-immigrants who have demonstrated achievement in business, arts or sciences – called an O-1. A journey he expected to complete in a week has turned into a distressing wait of more than 70 days.

Salama, an Egyptian citizen, has been living in the U.S. for seven years and counts among his past students U.S. troops being deployed to the Middle East. He is married to an American and has two young children. Because his name is common in the Muslim world, he suspects officials have him confused with someone else, perhaps even a man involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

“I have been a studious student all my life. I like literature and culture studies and film,” he said.

“I am not the person. The U.S. government is wasting its time. Once you have a name like Mohammad and Salama, you’re from Egypt and you’re under the age of 45, you’re considered dangerous,” he said in a phone interview from London, Ont., where he is staying with a former professor.

Salama holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has taught at San Francisco State University for the past year. He was expected to start teaching three Arabic courses this fall, including a seminar on the modern Arabic novel.

His wife, Carrie, who is finishing a nursing program in Wisconsin before joining him in San Francisco, said the delay “has taken a toll on everybody.”

She contemplated dropping out to support the family financially, but instead has moved with her children into her father’s home.

“My husband is stuck in a foreign country and paying bills there,” she said. “I understand the system is trying to be protective of the country, but it’s tearing apart our family.”


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