While the South African Haj and Umrah Council(Sahuc) said it has not received official communication from the Saudi Kingdom, some umrah operators are reporting that the Ministry of Hajj has made concessions to its haj and umrah visa rules. Online messages doing the rounds state that visas will be free to umrah pilgrims who travel once a year. The message says only travellers visiting the Kingdom for a second time in a Hijri calendar (Islamic calendar) will be liable to pay the 2000 riyal fee.
“”We are very pleased to inform our mutamireen the system for the Umrah visas for this year has been changed late yesterday afternoon. At this stage, any visas that’s been applied for since yesterday afternoon, even though people had been on Umrah for the last three years, will not attract the Saudi Riyal 2000 that had been in place since the season opened,” said Sedick Steenkamp, the chairperson of the South African Travels Haj Operators Association (Sathoa).
“We make shukr to Allah for having given us that present, Alhamdulilahi Rabbilalamien.”
Steenkamp stressed that they had not had any official notification from the Saudi government.
“However, as usual, any information usually comes through the first party. I also want to stress that this situation is for this particular year, so Inshallah for those people who are now going on Umrah from late yesterday afternoon, that the visas had been applied only from late yesterday, will then not pay the Saudi Riyaal 2000.
“If however you return in this particular hijri year, the 2000 Riyal would be payable. What’s going to happen in the following year, at this stage, we don’t have any information on that. But , Alhamdulilah we are happy to say that the 2000 Riyal have been scrapped at this stage for people going on Umrah the first time this year.”
“If your visa had been applied for already and if you are a repeat hajji, you would’ve paid the 2000 Riyal. However, if your visa has not been applied for and you’re only applying for it for today, for example, then that money would not be payable, because it is now a timing issue. It is for new applications from now onwards.”
In a statement, Samta said the Visa concessions will be as follows :
- Umrah pilgrims to travel once a year without paying SR 2000 .
- Only travellers visiting the Kingdom for a second time in a Hijri calendar (Islamic calendar) will be liable to pay the SR2000 fee.
- If a pilgrim has paid the fee for a Hijri Calender and wishes to travel in that same hijra year . Then the additional fee will not be applicable the second time.
- The Mofa Fee will still remain in place.
SAMTA said it made representations to DIRCO South Africa, and the Saudi Arabian Government and thanked them for their consideration.
Malek says the changes come after intense meetings in Riyaadh in the last week.
“Alhamdullilah, I think they aggressively looked at the numbers that have come down since last year. I think Saudi Arabia lost business with companies that run the hotels and of course, other businessman that do business in the KSA.”
According to Sahuc, some agents have reported that the system reflects no visa when entering repeat mutamireen into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs system. But Sahuc says it cannot comment further on the changes, as it has not received any official word from Saudi authorities. VOC