The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has opened its doors wider for tourism in recent years, simplifying the visa application process by introducing the eVisa. This electronic visa is a welcome change for tourists from eligible countries who wish to explore the wonders of Saudi Arabia.
What is the Saudi Arabia eVisa?
The Saudi Arabia eVisa is an online travel authorization that allows eligible citizens to visit Saudi Arabia for tourist purposes. It was launched by the Saudi government in September 2019 to boost tourism and ease the visa application process. The eVisa is sent to the applicant electronically after the application and payment are submitted.
What can you do with the Saudi Arabia eVisa?
While your list of activities and experiences that can be enjoyed with a Saudi Arabia eVisa is comprehensive, it's important to note that performing Umrah or visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are not typically permitted under a standard tourist visa. This is often restricted to specific religious visas. As of my last update in 2021, the standard tourist visa does not allow for such activities, and those found to be in violation may face penalties.
With those caveats in mind, here is an edited list of activities you can generally undertake with a Saudi Arabia eVisa:
- Explore ancient ruins and archaeological sites: Discover the UNESCO World Heritage site, Madain Saleh, also known as Al-Hijr, an ancient city with beautifully carved rock tombs.
- Experience the vibrant culture and traditions of Saudi Arabia: Engage with the locals to learn about their way of life, customs, and traditions.
- Visit iconic landmarks: Explore the ultra-modern skyline of Riyadh with the Kingdom Centre Tower or take a leisurely walk along the Jeddah Corniche.
- Enjoy breathtaking natural landscapes: The country's natural beauty spans from the Red Sea coast to the vast expanses of the Empty Quarter desert.
- Attend cultural festivals and events: The annual Janadriyah Festival is a cultural and heritage festival that is one of the most important cultural events in Saudi Arabia.
- Shop at traditional markets and modern shopping malls: From traditional souks to modern malls, shopping in Saudi Arabia is a unique experience.
- Indulge in the local cuisine: Experience Saudi Arabian dishes such as kabsa, a spiced rice dish with meat, or try the sweet Mutabbaq.
- Engage in outdoor activities: Enjoy the Red Sea's rich marine life by diving or snorkeling, or go hiking in the Asir National Park.
What can you not do with the Saudi Arabia eVisa?
The Saudi Arabia eVisa does not permit holders to work, study, or conduct business activities in the country. It is strictly for tourism purposes.
Here's a brief overview:
- Performing Hajj: The Tourist eVisa is not valid for performing Hajj, a religious pilgrimage to Mecca that is obligatory for Muslims at least once in their life if they are financially and physically capable. A specific Hajj visa is required for this purpose.
- Undertaking any form of work or employment: The eVisa is strictly for tourism purposes and does not permit any kind of work or employment.
- Pursuing academic studies or enrolling in educational institutions: You cannot use the tourist eVisa for studying purposes. For studying, you need to apply for a student visa.
- Engaging in business activities or establishing a business: Commercial activities are also not allowed under the tourist eVisa.
- Participating in political rallies or demonstrations: Saudi Arabia prohibits participation in political activities for tourists.
- Preaching or promoting any religion other than Islam: Public practice of any religion other than Islam is not allowed in Saudi Arabia.
- Violating any Saudi Arabian laws or customs: All travelers must adhere to Saudi Arabian laws and customs.
- Overstaying the permitted duration of your visa: Overstaying your visa is a serious violation that could result in penalties or bans from future entry.
- Undertaking any form of journalism or media-related activities without proper authorization: To engage in journalistic activities, you need a specific visa and permissions.
- Engaging in activities that may be deemed disrespectful or offensive to the local culture and customs: Visitors should respect the conservative customs and norms of Saudi society.
In addition, travelers must respect all other local laws and customs and abide by Saudi Arabia's strict rules regarding alcohol, drugs, and forbidden items. It's always a good idea to do thorough research and understand these rules before traveling.
Who can apply for the Saudi Arabia eVisa?
Citizens of eligible countries can apply for the Saudi Arabia eVisa. The list of eligible countries is defined by the Saudi government and may change from time to time.
Here's a summary of what you mentioned:
- Individuals from visa-required countries: Citizens of countries that require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia can apply for a tourist eVisa. This is subject to the specific list of eligible countries defined by the Saudi government.
- Non-GCC residents: While citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries do not require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia, non-residents of these countries, such as expatriate workers or students, can apply for a tourist eVisa.
- Business or leisure travelers: Although the Saudi Arabia tourist eVisa is primarily for tourism purposes, it can also be used for visiting family or friends, or attending specific events. However, business activities are generally not allowed under a tourist eVisa.
- Meeting the online visa requirements: Applicants need to fulfill specific visa requirements which typically include having a valid passport with at least six months of validity from the date of entry, providing personal and travel details on the visa application form, showing proof of accommodation, demonstrating sufficient financial means to cover the trip, and potentially other supporting documents.
The application for the Saudi Arabia eVisa is generally straightforward and can be completed online. It's important to remember that obtaining a visa does not guarantee entry into the country, as the final decision is made by immigration officers at the point of entry.
Who is eligible for the Saudi Arabia eVisa?
Eligibility for the Saudi Arabia eVisa is primarily based on citizenship. However, other factors like previous immigration violations, criminal records, etc., could affect eligibility.
Visa exempt: Who doesn't need a Saudi eVisa?
Indeed, while Saudi Arabia does require most tourists to have a visa in advance of their visit, there are a few exceptions to this rule as you've noted. Here's a brief elaboration on the categories you've mentioned:
- Citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries: Nationals of GCC countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - are typically not required to obtain a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. They may travel freely across the borders, but must carry valid ID documents.
- Diplomatic and official passport holders: Holders of diplomatic or official passports from certain countries may be allowed visa-free entry. The specifics of this can depend on bilateral agreements between Saudi Arabia and those countries, so it's important to verify this information.
- Transit passengers: Passengers transiting through Saudi Arabia and having confirmed onward tickets to a third destination within a certain timeframe (as you've mentioned, typically within 18 hours) may not need a visa. However, they generally must stay within the transit area of the airport.
However, it's very important to highlight that these are general guidelines and the specifics can change.
Do minors need a Saudi Arabia eVisa?
Yes, minors also need a Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa to enter the country. However, their applications must be filled out and submitted by their parents or legal guardians.
How long is the Saudi Arabia eVisa valid?
The Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa is typically valid for one year from the date of issuance,and it allows multiple entries. Each stay cannot exceed 90 days within a 180-day period.
Can I extend my Saudi Arabia eVisa?
Saudi Arabia does not typically offer extensions on its tourist eVisas. The Saudi Arabia eVisa is generally valid for one year and allows a stay of up to 90 days per entry.
Visitors are expected to depart the country before the expiration of their visa. If you overstay the allowed duration, it may result in penalties such as fines, deportation, or a ban from future travel to Saudi Arabia.
In exceptional circumstances that prevent a visitor from leaving within the visa's validity (for instance, severe illness), it is recommended to contact the local immigration authorities or the embassy or consulate of your home country in Saudi Arabia for guidance.
Saudi Arabia eVisa requirements
To apply for a Saudi Arabia eVisa, the following are the basic requirements for applying for a Saudi Arabia eVisa:
- Valid Passport: The passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry into Saudi Arabia. Applicants are required to provide a clear, scanned copy of their passport's bio-data page.
- Recent Photograph: Applicants are required to upload a recent color photograph, with a white background. The photograph should be a portrait (vertical) photo that captures the full face of the applicant directly facing the camera.
- Email Address: An email address is needed to receive the eVisa, updates about the application process, and any other communication related to the eVisa application.
- Means of Payment: The visa application fee must be paid online at the time of the application. A valid credit or debit card is required.
How do I apply for the Saudi Arabia eVisa online?
You can apply for the Saudi Arabia eVisa online through the official eVisa website of the Saudi government or through reliable travel agencies.
Applying for a Saudi Arabia eVisa online is a relatively straightforward process. Here are the steps involved:
- Fill out the application form: The form will require you to provide personal information such as your full name, date of birth, nationality, and passport details. You may also be asked to provide details about your planned trip, such as your accommodation and travel dates.
- Upload required documents: As part of your application, you will be asked to upload a recent digital photograph and a scan of your passport information page. Make sure that these documents meet the specified requirements.
- Pay the visa fee: You will be asked to pay the visa fee. This can be done online via a valid credit or debit card.
- Submit the application: Once you have paid the fee, you can submit the application. You should then receive a confirmation email acknowledging receipt of your application.
- Wait for the eVisa: After submission, your application will be reviewed by the Saudi Arabia visa authorities. Once approved, the eVisa will be sent to you by email. It's important to print this document and carry it with you when you travel.
- Arrive in Saudi Arabia: Present your passport and printed eVisa to the immigration officers upon arrival in Saudi Arabia.
Remember, the granting of a visa does not guarantee entry into the country. The final decision is made by immigration officers at the point of entry.
What are the costs and processing times of the Saudi Arabia eVisa?
The processing times for the Saudi Arabia eVisa can vary based on the type of processing you choose - Normal, Rush, or Super Rush. the general processing times are as follows:
- Normal Processing: The standard processing time is typically around 3-6 Working Days. If you are not in a hurry and have enough time before your travel, this is the most cost-effective option.
- Rush Processing: The Rush processing offers a quicker turnaround, usually within 1- 3 Working Days. This option is more expensive than the normal processing.
- Super Rush Processing: This is the fastest processing option available, typically delivering the eVisa within 24 Hours or less. This is the most expensive option, but it is useful for urgent travel needs.
Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa is subject to change and can vary depending on several factors including nationality, processing time, and duration of stay.
There may also be additional charges depending on the processing speed chosen:
- Normal Processing: This is usually included in the standard eVisa fee.
- Rush Processing: Rush processing often incurs an additional charge over the standard fee, depending on how quickly you need the visa processed.
- Super Rush Processing: Super Rush processing is the fastest option and also the most expensive.
Do I need a Saudi Arabia eVisa if I’m transiting through Saudi Arabia?
If you're transiting through Saudi Arabia and you won't leave the international transit area, you don't need a Saudi Arabia eVisa. But if you plan to leave the airport and enter the country, you will need a visa.
Can I use the Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa to perform Hajj?
No, the Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa cannot be used to perform Hajj. If you plan to perform Hajj, you need to apply for a specific Hajj visa.
Benefits of getting your Saudi Arabia eVisa
When you apply for your Saudi Arabia eVisa with us, we ensure a smooth, reliable, and hassle-free application process. Our team of experts reviews your application for any errors before submission and provides 24/7 assistance.
That said, here are some potential benefits of obtaining a Saudi Arabia eVisa:
- Online Application: The Saudi Arabia eVisa application process can be completed entirely online, saving time and effort compared to traditional visa applications.
- Convenience: With an eVisa, there's no need to visit a Saudi Arabian embassy or consulate in person. Travelers can apply for the visa from the comfort of their home or office.
- Faster Processing: In many cases, eVisas are processed faster than regular visa applications, allowing travelers to receive their visa approval more quickly.
- Multiple Entry Options: Depending on the type of eVisa granted, travelers may have the option of single or multiple entries into Saudi Arabia during the visa validity period. This flexibility can be beneficial for those planning to explore neighboring countries or making short trips outside Saudi Arabia.
- Shorter Validity Options: Some eVisas offer shorter validity periods, which can be useful for travelers with specific travel plans or those seeking to visit Saudi Arabia for a short duration.
- Tourism Purposes: The Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa is specifically designed for tourists, allowing them to explore the country's cultural and historical sites, attend events, and experience its unique attractions.
- Economic Growth: For Saudi Arabia, eVisa programs can contribute to the growth of tourism, boost the economy, and promote international exchange and understanding.
However, keep in mind that the benefits and requirements of the Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa may vary depending on the traveler's nationality, the type of eVisa applied for, and the current visa policies of the Saudi Arabian government.
Entry & exit requirements
Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, you must present your passport and printed eVisa. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry. For exit, you should keep all entry and exit stamps for record-keeping.
Differences between the Saudi Arabia eVisa and the Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa
There are significant differences between the Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa and the Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa. Please note that visa policies may change over time, so it's essential to verify the current information on the official Saudi Arabian government website or with the respective authorities. Here are the key differences between the two visa types:
Purpose of Visit:
- Saudi Arabia eVisa: This visa is specifically designed for tourists who wish to visit Saudi Arabia for leisure and exploration purposes. Tourists can explore the country's cultural and historical sites, attend events, and experience its unique attractions.
- Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa: The Umrah visa is intended for Muslims who plan to undertake the pilgrimage of Umrah. Umrah is a religious pilgrimage to Mecca and can be performed at any time of the year, unlike the Hajj, which has specific dates.
- Saudi Arabia eVisa: The eVisa is generally available to citizens of eligible countries, and the requirements and eligibility criteria may vary depending on the traveler's nationality.
- Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa: The Umrah visa is typically granted only to Muslims who can provide evidence of their religious affiliation and intention to perform Umrah.
Duration of Stay:
- Saudi Arabia eVisa: The eVisa allows for a specified duration of stay in Saudi Arabia, which can vary depending on the visa type and the traveler's nationality.
- Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa: The Umrah visa is usually issued for a shorter period compared to a tourist visa. It is granted specifically for the duration of the Umrah pilgrimage and may have additional restrictions.
- Saudi Arabia eVisa: The eVisa may allow for single or multiple entries during its validity period, depending on the type of visa and the traveler's nationality.
- Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa: The Umrah visa is typically a single-entry visa, allowing the pilgrim to enter Saudi Arabia for the purpose of performing Umrah once. Pilgrims are required to exit the country after completing the pilgrimage.
- Saudi Arabia eVisa: Tourists applying for the eVisa usually do not require a specific Saudi Arabian sponsor. They can apply directly for the visa through the online application process.
- Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa: Pilgrims planning to undertake Umrah are generally required to have a registered travel agent or sponsor in Saudi Arabia who will arrange their pilgrimage and act as their sponsor during their stay.
Increased Haj Quota Will Renew Drive To Boost Saudi Tourism
The Saudi Arabia eVisa is an electronic visa that allows eligible travelers to visit Saudi Arabia for tourism purposes.
The eligibility criteria for the eVisa can vary based on nationality and other factors. Generally, citizens of certain countries are eligible, while others may not be eligible or have different visa requirements.
The application process typically involves filling out an online form, providing necessary documents, and paying the required visa fee.
The duration of stay allowed on the eVisa can vary depending on the type of visa and your nationality.
Generally, visa fees are non-refundable, even if the application is denied. It is essential to review the visa policies and requirements before applying.
Extensions to eVisas may be possible in some circumstances, but it's essential to check with the Saudi Arabian authorities for specific details on extension procedures.
The eVisa typically allows travel to specific cities and regions within Saudi Arabia. It's important to be aware of any restrictions on movement imposed by the visa.