Taking part in religious pilgrimages to Mecca is to many Muslims a mandatory religious duty and the Umrah, one of these Islamic pilgrimages may take place anytime during the year. Such occasions mean that a large gathering of people will be heading to the same location much at the same time. To make this religious voyage as enjoyable as possible it is important to have your travel documentation in order. As such preparation is key. Here is what is important to know about specifically the Umrah visa for Saudi Arabia.
The different visas
People travel to Saudi Arabia for many reasons but one of the more common ones is to undertake a religious pilgrimage o Mecca. As such it is possible to apply for two types of visas. The Hajj visa and the Umrah visa. The Umrah visa is for a pilgrimage that may be conducted anytime during the entire year whereas the Hajj visa is for travel restricted to follow the Islamic calendar, more precisely between August and September. Currently there are only 4 countries from which citizens are excluded from the visa regulations, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE. The new e-visa application process, which will be implemented later this year, will allow for a range of countries, previously excluded from entry, to explore the region for tourist purposes. As for now, a trip to the Saudi Arabia Consulate is still required when wanting to apply for an Umrah visa.
How to go about it
The new online e-visa application system is on its way. Before the system is up and running thought, travellers wanting to visit Saudi Arabia still needs to go to an embassy or consulate in order to apply for and obtain their visa. In order to make the process as quick as possible, travellers are encouraged to use the assistance of certified travel agents when applying for their visa. Due to the fair number of documents that needs to be submitted, using the services of a travel agent will minimize the risk of mistakes being made. Among the documentation needed is for instance a signed application form, a valid passport and a non-refundable return ticket to your country of origin. There are also certain specific rules for women and children which the travel agent may be of assistance with.
Before you go
Opting for the Umrah visa will mean a lot less requirements than the previously mentioned Hajj event. As it is a pilgrimage that may be taken at any time during the year the visa application process is a little less rigorous. However, travellers going for the Umrah visa must still make sure that the period of validity does not exceed the last days of Ramadan as the visa does not permit the holder to spend the religious holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr in the country. The visa does allow the traveller to stay in Saudi Arabia for up to 2 weeks as this is considered enough time for the pilgrimage.