Religious tourism has historically been the main reason for people visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In fact, according to data from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, quoted by Arab News, more than 4.1 million Umrah visas were issued by the country in 2019. The kingdom plans to increase this number to 30 million, as part of the Vision 2030 initiative.
Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca, the holiest site for Islam. Each year, more than 3 million Muslims from across the world visit this site during the month of Dhu’l-Hijjah, to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. This pilgrimage is known as Hajj and every Muslim is expected to go on at least one Hajj during their lifetime.
Umrah is a non-mandatory, but recommended, pilgrimage in Islam and can be performed at any time during the Umrah season. Although there are very few restrictions these pilgrimages, visitors still need to follow strict guidelines.
Visas are provided each year for these pilgrimages, through authorised travel agencies. It must also be noted that the Umrah and Hajj visas are not interchangeable.
Unless you are a citizen of Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman or the UAE, you will need a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia. In case you belong to one of the 49 countries that have now been allowed an e-visa, the process has become a lot simpler for you too.
The e-visa is a multiple entry tourist visa that allows you to visit Saudi Arabia for 90 days within a one-year period. Using this visa, you can perform the Umrah, as well as explore the country as a tourist. But, for the citizens of the remaining countries of the world, a Hajj or Umrah visa is mandatory.
For a Hajj/Umrah visa, the following documents are required:
The applicant must have a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date on which they enter Saudi Arabia. The passport must be acceptable for entry into Saudi Arabia, as well as for your next destination. The passport must also contain two adjacent blank pages.
The applicant would have to submit one coloured passport-sized photograph. The complete face must be visible in the photograph, with the applicant looking directly into the camera. Angled and side views are not accepted. It must also be ensured that the photograph is taken against a white background.
The applicant also needs to submit the filled application form. The form must be printed or filled with a black pen. It is also necessary that the form is signed and stamped by the authorised travel agency. Make sure to fill all the details carefully, since any mistakes can lead to delay or even rejection of the visa.
It is mandatory for the Mahram to write the complete information on the application form about his spouse, children, or any relative who might be traveling with him. It is also necessary to provide copies of birth or marriage certificates for these travellers.
It must also be remembered that women need to be accompanied by a Mahram to travel for Hajj. Women who are over the age of 45 years can travel without an organised group or Mahram. But, she must provide a no objection letter from her Mahram. The letter must allow her to travel with the named group.
The applicant must also possess a non-refundable round trip ticket with confirmed reservations.
It is necessary for the applicant to submit proof of vaccination for meningitis and ACYW135. In case of infants and children younger than 15 years, a vaccination report for polio and meningitis is required. In case of children over the age of 15, the vaccination requirements are the same as that for adults. The issued vaccination certificate should not be older than 3 years but not less than 10 days before entering Saudi Arabia.
Each individual pilgrim is required to submit two cashier’s cheques or certified cheques, payable to “Unified Agents Office” in Jeddah for pilgrimage services. It is important that these cheques include the name and passport number of the pilgrim, as well as the place and time of issue.
Children are allowed to accompany their parents for Hajj. When applying for the Hajj visa, the name of the children must be included in the parent’s passport. It is also necessary to attach their birth certificate.
The Hajj and Umrah visa are offered free of cost. However, you will need to pay for other services, transportation and accommodation.
If this is your first time applying for the Hajj or Umrah visa or you wish for a completely hassle-free visa application process, enlist the services of an experience agency, such as Rapid Visa. We will take care of the entire process, ensuring that there are no unnecessary delays.