The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia introduced the Umrah Visa in 2013 as a way of encouraging Muslim faithful to perform the Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca and to visit the kingdom’s holy sites more often. The visa allows pilgrims to tour the kingdom outside of the traditional Hajj period, for the specific purpose of performing the Umrah pilgrimage. Note that the visa does not allow you to reside, work, or engage in any business activity in Saudi Arabia.
Although the Muslim faith does not place as much emphasis on Umrah as they do on Hajj, it still is an important pilgrimage to perform, more so during the final 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan. Also, unlike Hajj which has specified timelines, Umrah can be done any time of the year.
If you aren’t a Saudi Arabian citizen, you need to learn how to apply for Umrah visa, and indeed to acquire one, before making the Umrah pilgrimage. You will need to apply through a licensed Umrah travel agent, at a small Umrah visa fee.
Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa for Citizens of the United States
If you intend to apply for Umrah visa from USA, you should do so through a licensed US travel agency, with the authorization of the Saudi Consulate. There isn’t a direct charge for the visa, but you might be required by the travel agency to write a check for several associated costs. Although different agencies charge different fees for online e-visa for Saudi Arabia, the average price is in most cases around USD $200. The charge can reduce to USD $175 if you opt for standard processing or fluctuate to USD $225 for an expedited application process. These Umrah Visa fees also vary depending on the time of year, with the Ramadan season attracting the highest fluctuations.
- The travel agency you choose to work with must be in liaison with a Saudi-based company or establishment for it to guarantee you a smooth Umrah visa application process.
- The travel agency is responsible for arranging for transportation to, around, and from the kingdom as well as your accommodation.
How Long Does The Umrah Visa Application Process Take?
Your waiting period could be as short as 24 hours or as long as 5 days to a week. A reputable agency processing the visa at a standard speed will take 3 days maximum.
Because of the many requirements that have to be review and approved before your e-Visa application is approved, you will have to pay hefty fees if you want super rush processing (within 24 hours).
What Is the Validity of Umrah Visa?
You can apply for the Umrah Visa any day, all year round, but you are only allowed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 2 weeks maximum. It is illegal and punishable by law for any Umrah pilgrim to extend their stay for more than two weeks from the date of entry. If you obtain the Umrah visa during the holy month of Ramadan, you will be required to depart from Saudi Arabia on the last day of Ramadan, even if your 2-week tourism window will not have elapsed. That is because pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in the kingdom.
How to Apply For the Umrah Visa: Vaccination Requirements
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is very keen on protecting its citizens from disease. As such, expect your Umrah visa cost to hike due to the following vaccination requirements:
- You must test for and get vaccinated against meningitis, the H1N1 flu, and ACYW135. Every traveller above the age of 15 must meet this requirement. Your travel agent should help you get these vaccinations and the associated certification.
- If you will be bringing your 15-year old or younger kid(s) along, you must submit proof that they have been vaccinated against polio, meningococcal, seasonal as well as common flu, and meningitis. The flu vaccination should be taken two weeks prior to the Umrah visa application.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strongly discourages the following groups of people from undertaking Umrah pilgrimage at any time of the year: The elderly, pregnant women, infants, and the terminally ill. You won’t be turned back if you are in any of the categories, but for your own safety, it is best that you heed the advice.
Other Eligibility Requirements:
Your visa application will only be approved if you meet the following Umrah requirements:
- Your passport must have a validity of 6 months or more as of your application date. Passports from some specified countries aren’t accepted in Saudi Arabia, so you must first confirm that your country isn’t one of those.
- Your passport needs to have two or more adjacent empty visa pages at the time of application.
- Bring one (1) recent passport size color photograph to the Saudi Consulate on the application day. Ensure that the photograph is taken in a reputed photo studio, that it is a full-face view whereby your whole face plus the ears are well captured, and that the background is white. Photos with angled views are rejected instantly.
- You will need to fill an application form, and then get it signed and stamped by an authorized travel agency. You can print the form or, if you choose to fill it out by hand, you MUST use black ink.
- Women and children under 18 years can only travel for Umrah in the company of a Mahram (an adult male). The Mahram can be a father, big brother, or a husband, and he must clearly indicate on the application forms his relationship with everyone in his travel group. He must also attach copies of his marriage certificate for his wife and/or birth certificates for the kids.
- For any migrant or non-citizen applying for the Umrah visa from the USA, you must get your birth and/or marriage certificates translated to English by an authorized translation office if they were issued outside the US.
- Women over 45 years of age are eligible for Umrah application. They may make the Umrah pilgrimage unaccompanied by their husband, but they must produce a letter of “no objection” from their Mahram (husband or in the absence of a husband, a male relative). They are also required to travel with an organized group.
How to Apply For the Umrah Visa: The General Guidelines
- Don’t carry any food products for your Umrah visit.
- The Saudi Customs Officers at your port of entry have the power to authorize visits outside the specifications of the Umrah visa. If you wish to visit any city besides the Holy Sites, Riyadh for example, request the officers to grant you the needed authorization.
- The Saudi Authority at your port of entry will inspect the currencies in your possession. It is advisable that you declare all the currencies you’ve brought to avoid unnecessary trouble or delays.
- Only convert your money to the local currency through an authorized currency exchange firm.