A neurosurgeon from Kuwait who was invited to speak at the University of Miami had to cancel his family vacation to Florida after being denied entry into the United States.
Dr. Hisham Al-Khayat, 50, told The Miami Herald that he was not given any explanation for why he and his wife were selected by U.S. federal agents at the Dubai airport and prevented from boarding the flight.
Al-Khayat lived in Florida for eight years as a resident physician and told the newspaper that he is now the only practicing neurosurgeon in the Middle East certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.
He was invited by his mentor, John Ragheb, to speak at the Neurosurgery Grand Rounds at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine — the school he trained at.
Al-Khayat and his wife, Shatha Hajeyah, decided to make a family vacation out of the offer and booked a two-week trip with their seven children and his elderly mother to Disney World.
The Herald reported that Al-Khayat and his family flew from Kuwait to Dubai on July 26. They were then stopped at the gate by a U.S. federal agent while trying to board their connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale.
The agent told them he was ordered to prevent Al-Khayat or Hajeyah from getting on the plane, despite the fact that the couple both held B1/B2 non-immigrant visas that didn’t expire until August 2024, the newspaper reported.
The seven children, ranging from ages 2 to 20, and Al-Khayat’s 73-year-old mother were allowed to board.
Six of the children have visas and two were born in Florida and are U.S. citizens, The Herald noted.
The family couldn’t split up so they were forced to cancel the trip, which included medical appointments for Al-Khayat’s mother and daughter.
They were also forced to give up the $400 hotel deposit and cancel the Disney World trip. The family ended up visiting the Disney theme park in Hong Kong instead.
Al-Khayat and his wife then had their visas revoked without any justification a few days later, he told the newspaper.
“Information has become available subsequent to visa issuance that indicates you may no longer be eligible for your visa,” the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait wrote in a message to Hajeyah.
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) referenced a list of more than 60 grounds of inadmissibility into the country but declined to elaborate on Al-Khayat's case when asked about the incident by the Herald.
“Due to privacy policies, CPB is unable to discuss specific cases regarding an individual traveler,” the spokesperson told the paper. “Under U.S. immigration law [Section 291 of the INA [8 USC 1361] applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility.”
Al-Khayat said he wants an explanation and an apology if the whole thing was just a mistake.
“This was their vacation after 11 months of hard work,” Al-Khayat said in an email to the Herald. “Whole trip is ruined for no specific reasons ... I was treated so bad and there is no explanation for such action.”