The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is rich in heritage, natural wonders, history, and culture, but all these have for the longest time been masked from the outside world by the country’s inaccessibility. Only Muslim pilgrims have been accessing the desert kingdom’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina, but not any other part of the country. The narrative is, however, changing under the leadership of the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, who has made it his priority to remove the country’s barriers to international tourism.
The government is investing in high-speed means of transport as a way of increasing the country’s accessibility and navigability. Artificial intelligence devices are also being implemented around the desert kingdom in a bid to make it more appealing to foreign tourists, and to give it a competitive edge over other Middle Eastern destinations. Most notably, the kingdom has been repealing the strict laws that denied women equal human rights and freedoms as men. Female travelers don’t have to wear abayas any more, they can drive, and it is no longer a requirement that they be accompanied by male relatives when touring the kingdom.
The icing on the cake for as long as Saudi Arabia tourism is concerned has to be the introduction of the tourist e-visa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched this visa in 2019, effectively giving interested travelers the freedom to enter the country for leisure purposes. Holders of this visa are allowed to stay in Saudi Arabia for up to 90 days, during which time they can visit any part of the kingdom apart from Mecca and other holy sites. However, that validity can be cut short if a tourist breaks the Saudi tourism law, especially in regards to respecting the Islam faith. You will be deported if you eat pork, preach any other religion besides Islam, drink alcohol, or do anything that borders on haram.
The entire Saudi Arabia e-visa application process is simple and convenient because you can do everything online. Your application is accepted if you are eligible and an electronic visa is sent to your email. That eliminates the hassles of queuing at the airport- or in a Saudi embassy or consulate- for hours waiting to get a tourist visa. You are supposed to print your e-visa and show it to custom officers upon reaching a Saudi Arabian point of entry in order to be allowed into the country. As of now, only nationalities of 51 selected countries are eligible to apply.
- If your application is denied, you will receive an email explaining the circumstances under which it was denied.
- Muslim pilgrims may travel for Umrah on a tourist eVisa all year around, except during the Hajj pilgrimage.
On top of encouraging foreigners to travel to Saudi Arabia, the electronic application system has streamlined border checks to the advantage of both the government and travelers. The e-visa is electronically attached to a holder’s passport so local authorities can monitor every movement foreigners make while in the country. The visa is also linked to a Mandatory Insurance Policy that every foreigner must have before being allowed into the Kingdom. You don’t get to choose your insurance provider; the government of Saudi Arabia does that for you when approving the visa.
How Long Is A Saudi Arabia e-Visa Valid For?
The Saudi Arabia e-Visa has a validity of 1 year from the date of issue, after which you will need to re-apply for a new one. It actually comes with an expiration date written on it so you don’t have to worry about doing the math.
Being valid for a year should not be translated to mean that a holder can be in the desert kingdom for 365 days. It means that the holder can get in and out of the country throughout the year, but the total days he/she spends on Saudi soil within that one year should not exceed 90 days in total.
Does Obtaining An E-Visa Guarantee A Holder Entry Into Saudi Arabia?
It does not. Someone could possess an electronic visa for Saudi Arabia but still be denied entry by a Saudi Immigration Officer at the port of entry. Access is mostly denied to travelers who fail to fulfill other immigration requirements and those deemed to be a threat to the security of the people of Saudi Arabia.
How Long Does It Take To Process My Saudi Arabia E-Visa?
It depends on your budget and available time. The cheapest option is standard processing that takes up to 5 business days. You can also opt for rush processing that takes 3 business days, and then there is the fastest and the most pricey super rush processing that takes 24 hours at most.
Who Can Visit Saudi Arabia with an e-Visa?
All citizens from the 51 eligible countries provided that the holder has a valid passport that doesn’t expire within six months after the date of arrival in Saudi Arabia. Copies of passports, photographs, and other important travel documents must be deposited at the customs office at the time of entry. E-visa holders are required to pay all application charges using a credit or debit card so, without either of the cards on hand, the application process might get unnecessarily tedious for you.
- If you want to work or study in Saudi Arabia, you will need to apply for a work or study visa in person. Such long-term visas aren’t available electronically for now.
- If you have dual nationality, be sure to bring with you the passport that you used during your e-visa application. You will be turned back at the airport, seaport, or border check if you bring your other passports, regardless of whether your visa is legit.
- There are designated ports of entry for electronic visa holders.
You are required to have sufficient money to support yourself financially for your duration of stay in Saudi Arabia. Immigration officers will ask you for proof upon your arrival and if you don’t have one, you could be denied entry.
A lot of transit travel happens through US, if you are from UK and are looking to stay in US for longer, please make sure you are applying for ESTA Visa here.
There is a lot to do and see in Saudi Arabia. It will be unfortunate for you if you mess up your trip by dressing inappropriately and disrespecting local laws. Also, respect the Saudi people and their culture and you will be in for the most exciting travel experience of your life.