and Umrah Visas
hajj visa is one that is issued to a
Muslim wishing to take part in the hajj,
which occurs during the first half of
the twelfth Islamic month. Hajj visas
are issued according to a quota system
-- one for every 1000 Muslims in a
country's population. Generally, it is
very difficult -- not to say impossible
-- to get a hajj visa outside one's home
umrah visa is issued to any Muslim who
wishes to visit and pray in the Holy
Cities of Makkah and Madinah. The umrah
visa is issued at any time other than
the actual hajj. In order to get an
umrah visa, application must be made in
one's home country or in the country in
which one holds permanent residence.
the applicant is not from a Muslim
country or does not have a Muslim name,
he will be asked to provide an official
document listing Islam as his religion.
Converts must provide documentary
evidence of their conversion from a
mosque. An umrah visa is valid for a
week and only for travel to Jeddah,
Makkah and Madinah and on the roads
linking them. If travel is to be
completely by road, one is allowed to
travel from the land border where he
enters the Kingdom to the Holy Cities.
other countries of the GCC (Gulf
Cooperation Council -- Kuwait, Qatar,
Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and
the Sultanate of Oman), Saudi Arabia
does not issue tourist visas nor is it
possible for a hotel to sponsor a
than the two types of visas discussed
above which are only available to
Muslims, there exist visitor's visas,
residence visas or transit visas.
all cases, a person entering the Kingdom
must have a Saudi sponsor, which means
an individual or a company to vouch for
the individual's conduct while he is in
government business in Saudi Arabia is
conducted according to the Islamic
calendar. Any Gregorian (western) date
you encounter on official documents is
there purely for your convenience and is
in no way to be construed as official.
The official date will be the Islamic
one and as the Islamic year is 11 days
shorter than the Gregorian one,
confusion can -- and often does --
result. For example, a one month visa is
valid for an Islamic month, not a
Gregorian one. If the visitor stays for
a Gregorian month, there is a distinct
possibility he will have overstayed his
visa by a day or two and he will almost
surely encounter difficulties with the
authorities when he attempts to leave
visitor's visa, which is in actual fact a business visa, is obtained
upon a formal invitation from the company or individual sponsoring the
visitor. The invitation will include a visa number and it is primarily
a statement that the sponsor has obtained a visa for the visitor and
that authority to issue the visa has been sent to the appropriate
the visa number in hand, the individual can go to the embassy BUT as
visas are issued only by number and not by name, if one has no number,
there is absolutely no point in going to the embassy.
number, no visa: the rule is simple and is applied to all applicants.
on the other hand, the visitor is at the embassy in the morning with
his number, he can usually collect his visa in the afternoon.
you are going to live and work in Saudi Arabia, there is a great deal
of paperwork, bureaucratic red-tape and such which your sponsor will
have to complete on your behalf.
addition to his work in the Kingdom, you will also have to show copies
of your employment contract and academic or professional
qualifications. You will also have to have a comprehensive medical
examination for which the embassy provides the forms. An important
part of the medical examination is a blood test showing that you are
HIV negative. (This is the AIDS test.)
you and your sponsor have completed the paperwork, which usually takes
about six weeks, you will be informed of your visa number which will
entitle you to collect a visa. Once you have arrived in the Kingdom,
your visa will be converted to a residence visa and in almost every
case, you will at this point surrender your passport to your sponsor
and be given an igama, or residence permit, which you should carry
with you at all times.
the event of your leaving the country on a holiday, your sponsor will
obtain an exit/re-entry visa for you and upon your surrendering your
igama to him, you will be given your passport which is only valid for
travel outside the Kingdom if there is an exit/re-entry visa stamped
you are leaving the country and not returning, you will be issued an
are 24 and 48 hour transit visas for people passing through Saudi
airports. These are issued only after you have satisfied the Saudi
embassy that you had absolutely no choice but a transit stop in the
Kingdom. If you do get this kind of visa, you will have to surrender
your passport to the immigration authorities at the airport and
collect it on your way out.
are relatively straightforward. People driving between Jordan and
either Yemen or Kuwait are normally given three-day transit visas.
These are usually issued only by the embassies in Amman or Sana'a. You
are required to go to the embassy with your carnet and a visa for the
country at the other end of the trip.
driving between Bahrain, Qatar or the UAE and Jordan are often given
seven-day transit visas.
driving between Oman and Jordan are required to get the transit visa
in Abu Dhabi.
bear in mind that all of this information is unreliable, as it appears
to be the Saudi nature that there are no hard and fast rules regarding
transit visas. Stories are legion of individuals who obtain visas in
their country of origin only to find them invalid at the Saudi border,
or who arrive at the Saudi border having been instructed by their
local Saudi embassy that this is the appropriate place to source a
transit visa, only to be told that only an embassy can issue a transit
visa. The basic rule, then, is to double-check all of your facts with
your local Saudi embassy and, if possible, with the authorities in
can only be obtained by your sponsor.