In a move that has been widely praised, the Saudi government has announced that the umrah visa fees for repeat pilgrims have been scrapped. On Monday, Saudi minister for Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammad Salih Bentin, thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for issuing a royal decree restructuring visit, Hajj and transit visas. The umrah operator’s organisations SAMTA and SATHOA have confirmed the announcement.
Bentin said: “The royal decree is part of the leadership’s keenness to facilitate the arrival of Muslims from all over the world to perform Hajj and Umrah.”
He added that the decree reflects the Kingdom’s readiness to receive the increasing number of pilgrims due to huge infrastructure projects and the development of services in Makkah, Madinah and the holy places.
Bentin said the decree supports efforts to achieve one of the most important objectives of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which is to receive 30 million Umrah pilgrims by that year, and to provide them with great services so they can perform their rituals in comfort and tranquillity.
The 2000 riyal visa cost has been a contentious issue since it was implemented two years ago.
Meanwhile, with Umrah season opened for 1441, the first flights of Umrah pilgrims from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have already been welcomed into the country. The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is reportedly ready to issue 10 million visas for this year’s Umrah season, which will be provided electronically – without the need to visit embassies and consulates for a stamp – as introduced in a new online system. This allows individuals to apply for visas while selecting their Umrah packages online.
“There’s a new online system put together whereby individuals can also apply for their visas when they log onto the website of the Ministry of Hajj…The ministry, before, allowed us to do the packages directly with the suppliers ourselves but now the new system is such that when you do apply for the visa on the website of the ministry, you have to create a package on that particular website and pay it on there as well,” explained Shaykh Imran Saban, vice president of the South African Hajj Travel Operator’s Association (Sathoa).
“Once you have entered all the necessary information it [the online system] will accept and generate a code. This code will then be used 15 days before your departure to print your visa on the ministry’s website,” said Shaykh Saban.
Although the online system has been experiencing some trouble in its beginning phases, Shaykh Saban expects the process to be fully operational and glitch-free within a week or two.
“The system is a good system – it will be much easier to obtain the visa and it’s a much safer system having the whole package booked and pre-arranged prior to arrival.”