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Saudi Arabia: Regulation Establishes New Type of Visa

(Nov. 29, 2019) On October 11, 2019, The Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage (SCTNH) issued Regulation No. 4800, which establishes a new type of visa in Saudi Arabia called the “Tourist Visa.” The entry tourist visa allows citizens from 51 countries cited on the E-Visa of Saudi Arabia website to enter Saudi Arabia by obtaining an e-visa or a visa upon arrival for touristic purposes.

Before this regulation was issued, Saudi Arabia had 11 types of visas, which did not include a visa for touristic purposes. These visas included a Business/Commercial Visa, a Diplomatic and Official Visa, an Employment Visa, an Escort Visa (for the spouse and children of the principal traveler), a Family Visit Visa, a Government Visit Visa, a Residence Visa, a Student Visa, a Work Visit Visa, a Hajj Visa (for the Hajj pilgrimage), and an Umrah Visa (for a different type of pilgrimage). The new tourist visa was created by the Saudi government in accordance with its 2030 vision, which aims to achieve 100 million visitors to the kingdom by 2030.

For the first time in the kingdom’s history, foreign nationals who want to enter the country for the purpose of tourism are allowed to do so through two types of tourist visas. The first type is a one-time entry visa valid for a period of three months from the issuance date, stipulating that the period of stay does not exceed 30 days. The second type is a multiple-entry visa that is valid for a period of one year from the issuance date, stipulating that the duration of stay does not exceed 90 days. (Regulation arts. 2, 3.)

Foreign nationals of the 51 eligible countries are also permitted to apply for the tourist visa upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia, or through a representative (consulate or embassy) of the kingdom abroad. (Art. 4.)

To obtain the visa, applicants must (1) submit a complete visa application form, (2) hold a valid passport, (3) obtain medical insurance accepted by hospitals in Saudi Arabia, (4) register the address where they will be staying in the kingdom, and (5) pay the visa fee. All applicants must be above the age of 18, unless they are accompanied by an adult. (Art. 5.)

Tourist visa applicants who are citizens of countries that are not among the 51 countries cited on the E-Visa of Saudi Arabia website may not apply for the tourist visa online, but only through one of the kingdom’s representatives abroad. They must submit the following with their visa application: (1) a return air ticket; (2) the address of the hotel they have booked in the kingdom; (3) proof of employment; (4) proof of solvency; (5) an itinerary of their trip; and (6) all personal information, including their address in their country. Visa applicants holding valid tourist or commercial visas to the United States or the United Kingdom, or a Schengen Convention visa for the European Union do not need to submit the aforementioned documents. (Art. 6.) The visa fees are 300 Saudi riyals (about US$80). (Art. 9.)

Foreign nationals who come as tourists to the kingdom must comply with the kingdom’s laws and carry their identification documents at all times. The tourist visa is not for the purpose of performing Hajj (pilgrimage) during the Hajj season. Penalties cited in Saudi laws apply to tourists who violate those laws during their stay in Saudi Arabia. (Arts. 10, 11.)

The tourist visa has reportedly introduced two major changes. First, it allows women to enter the country without an escort for Umrah, something that was not possible before. Second, it permits non-Muslims to travel to Saudi Arabia for touristic purposes.

Prepared by Abdulhadi Zafar, Law Library intern, under the supervision of George Sadek, Foreign Law Specialist