Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s strictest countries in terms of entry requirements and visas. All those entering the country require a Saudi visa that must be applied for through an accredited agency. Accreditation is granted through the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. There are a number of visas available that allow travel to Saudi Arabia but this article will look to dissect a specific Saudi visa, most commonly referred to as either a Pilgrimage visa or a Hajj visa.
Saudi Arabia is a country with strong, conservative Islamic beliefs which govern everyday life and culture. The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca and is a mandatory religious duty for all Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their life time by all adult Muslims. The Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars and is the largest annual gathering of people anywhere in the world. With such huge numbers of visitors attracted to the country each year the Saudi visa application can be a lengthy one and it is important to understand the requirements before applying.
It is worth noting that around the time of the Hajj pilgrimage each year complications and difficulties can arise with flights to Jeddah and Madina. The UK government website advises non-Muslim visitors that they may be required to explain the purpose of their trip before being allowed to board flights to these destinations.
The following guidelines must be followed in order to fulfil the requirements needed to gain a Umrah and Hajj visa:
- Passports should be valid for at least 6 months and two empty adjacent pages are required
- Each applicant requires one recent passport sized picture. Normal Passport photo guidelines apply i.e. White background, no sunglasses etc.
- Authorized travel agencies must be used as only they can sign and stamp a completed application form
- All woman must travel to the Hajj with a Mahram. This is someone who is a male blood relative. Proof of kinship is required. Women over 45 can travel without a Mahram but with an organized group and a letter of no objection from a male blood relative.
- A full round trip ticket is required plus confirmed reservations.
- If the applicant is a convert to Islam then a Islamic certificate is required. It must be notarized by an Islamic centre.
- A meningitis immunisation certificate must be provided
For UK passport holders there are a number of added points. UK Emergency Travel Documents are not valid for entry in to Saudi Arabia but will be accepted for exit. It is also worth noting that entry may be refused if a passport contains evidence of previous travel to Israel.