In September 2019, Saudi Arabia officially announced that it was opening its doors to international travelers, allowing them to visit the conservative Kingdom for purposes beyond just religious travel. According to a statement by Saudi Foreign Ministry, within the first 10 days of the introduction of the Saudi E Visa, nearly 24,000 international tourists entered the country, says an article on Arab News. Americans accounted for the third highest number of visitors to enter the kingdom.
Home to two of Islam’s holiest places, Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia is a popular destination for a billion Muslims from all across the world. This Middle Eastern country is now rapidly becoming the top choice for tourists too, especially due to the deep insight it offers into pre-Islamic Arabia. One can explore monumental tombs, pre-Islamic rock art, castles, dams, palaces and much more. Apart from these, the country offers diverse natural landscapes, from mountains to beaches, with the Gulf coast making for a fascinating holiday destination.
Documents Required By US Citizens To Enter Saudi Arabia
Passport holders of the United States of America are welcome to enter Saudi multiple times for a period of up to 90 days for the purposes of tourism. This regulation came into force in the second half of 2019. It is important to remember that non-Muslims are granted the Tourist E Visa for Saudi Arabia for the purposes of tourism only. They are not allowed to enter Mecca and Medina.
Here are the mandatory documents you will need in order to obtain the e-visa, either online or on arrival:
- A recent digital passport sized photo in PDF format.
- A valid email address, in case the application process is online.
- Debit or credit card, to pay the online visa fee.
In order to enter the country, you will be required to present:
- A US passport with validity of more than six months beyond the intended travel dates.
- At least one blank page on the passport for the entry stamp.
- A copy of the tourist e-visa
- Proof of vaccination, which is important for certain visa categories.
Keep in mind that US citizens are strongly recommended to enter Saudi Arabia on a Saudi e-visa and US passport only, not via laissez passer.
How To Apply For A Tourist E Visa
The Saudi E visa application can be completed in a few simple steps:
STEP 1: VISIT THE OFFICIAL ELECTRONIC VISA PORTAL
The first step is to visit the official e-visa website of Saudi Arabia. Make sure that you are on the right page because there are several websites that look just like the original one.
STEP 2: CREATE AN ACCOUNT
Create an account with your login information, name, phone number and email address. Click on the link that is sent to your email address to activate the account.
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS
Once your account is activated, you can fill up the visa application form with general information, such as your full name, address, birth of date, gender, etc. Other than these, you will also need to enter your travel plans, passport details, purpose of travel, place of accommodation, occupation, marital status, country of birth and so on. Make sure you fill all the sections correctly to avoid any delays or rejection of your application.
Upload a photo of yourself in .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .gif or .bmp format. The dimensions of the photo should be 200×200 pixels and the size should be between 3KB and 100 KB.
STEP 4: MAKE THE PAYMENT
The next step is paying the visa application fee of SAR463.44, which includes the medical insurance fee, 5% VAT and transaction fee. You can pay online via credit or debit card.
After the above process is completed, you will receive the electronic visa via email. It is necessary to produce this before the immigration officers when you arrive at Saudi Arabia. Make sure you have fulfilled all the visa requirements accurately in order to be eligible to enter the country.
Local Laws And Regulations To Be Followed In Saudi Arabia
Public behaviour norms in the country are extremely conservative, breaching of which can land you in serious troubles. Here is a guide on how to conduct yourself in the country.
- Tourists, both men and women, must dress modestly when in public. Women should cover their knees and shoulders at all times. Men must not been seen without a shirt.
- Make sure you do not have inappropriate images or texts on your clothes.
- If you belong to the LGBT category, do not exhibit any kind of same sex sexual relations in public or support similar relationships. It is a criminal offence in Saudi and you might be punished severely.
- All married women are required to have the permission of their husband if they want to leave the country. In case of unmarried women, permission from any male guardian, such as their father or brother, can be taken.
- Import of banned products, including weapons, alcohol, pork, pornographic material and anything that is against Islam is strictly prohibited.
- You will need to abide by the inspection rules of all electronic devices before entering and leaving the country.
- Christmas decorative items and magazines are not permitted within the territory of Saudi Arabia.
Lastly, keep in mind that officers from US consulates and embassies are not permitted to intervene in case you have violated any laws and are being subject to penalties.
The Saudi E visa process can be completely online and has been particularly designed to eliminate all hassles of visiting consulates. However, if you are a first-timer or feel unsure of the process, get the help of an experienced agency, like Rapid Visa, to take care of all the formalities of your behalf.