What Is An Hajj Visa And How To Apply
People tour the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for two main reasons: One, to see the magnificent desert landscape that defines the Middle East and two, for religious pilgrimage to Mecca. For the former, all you need is an electronic visa for tourists. For religious pilgrimage, you must have either a Hajj visa or an Umrah visa. Note that the Saudi Arabia eVisa is strictly meant for tourism and is not valid for Hajj traveling.
What is a Hajj Visa?
This visa allows pilgrims to tour Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage that goes down every year during the Islamic month of Dhu al Hijjah. The pilgrimage takes place in Mecca and lasts 5-6 days, although the actual dates vary from year to year. Hajj 2020 will be commencing in the evening of 28th July and concluding in the evening of 2nd August. The pilgrimage is very important in the Islamic calendar- It is a religious duty that every adult Muslim should undertake at least once in a lifetime, provided he has the physical and financial ability to travel to Mecca.
The Hajj Visa was introduced in a genuine attempt by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to simplify the visa process for pilgrims and encourage religious tourism in the kingdom. There are more lenient admission processes now than it has ever been before. Unlike in the past when pilgrims were subjected to thorough screening in Saudi Consulates, for example, the kingdom admitted pilgrims for Hajj 2019 without any physical screening. Pilgrims who wish to travel to Mecca in 2020 can expect more lenient visa applications and custom processes.
Citizens of eligible countries can apply for the Hajj visa through the Saudi visa electronic system or in a Saudi embassy as from Mid-Shawwal until 25th Dhu-al-Qa’dah of every year. They are then admitted into the kingdom on the 4 Dhu’l-Hijjah, through the King Abdulaziz Airport- the biggest international airport in Jeddah. Saudi Arabian law is very strict on the dates that a Hajj visa holder can be legally in the kingdom. It is a punishable offense to extend your stay beyond the conclusion of Hajj, or beyond the 10th of Muharram.
Requirements for Hajj Visa
To start your Hajj Visa application process, the Saudi Embassy in your home country will require you to have:
- A passport that’s legally issued by a Saudi eVisa-eligible country. The passport should be valid for a minimum of six months post-Hajj.
- A duly filled Hajj visa application form.
- Proof that you (and your family, if any) have been vaccinated against Meningitis, Cholera, and other diseases that the Saudi Consulate can deem necessary. You will also be needed to produce vaccination certificates at the Saudi port of entry.
- If you will be bringing your wife along, you will have to produce a copy of your valid marriage certificate.
- Every pilgrim must have a valid round trip air ticket before being approved for a Hajj visa.
- A draft for SR444. This draft is payable to the Unified Agents Office that’s based in Jeddah. The office will be handling all your travel formalities to Makkah and Madinah once you touch ground in Jeddah.
- A draft for SR435. This one is payable to the Automobiles Union of Saudi Arabia. You will be assisted through the process of paying for and filing the SR435 as well as the SR444 drafts.
- If you live in the USA but you aren’t a citizen yet (or you are visiting the USA) and you intend to do your Hajj visa application in the country, you will be required to submit your American Green Card to the Saudi embassy. When approved, you will be required to fly directly from the USA to Jeddah, and strictly not from your home country.
- Women and kids can only be allowed to attend the Hajj pilgrimage if they are accompanied by a Mahram (a male relative). That could be a husband, a male sibling, or a father. During the application process, a husband must proof the legality of his marriage to his wife by sending their marriage certificate to the Saudi Consulate. A father, on the other hand, must send in copies of his kids’ birth certificates.
- A mahram and his wife and/or his children will be denied entry into Saudi Arabia if they don’t travel on the same flight to Jeddah.
- Women aged 45 years and above are eligible for a Saudi Hajj visa and, with signed approval from her Mahram and the authorization of a recognized Islamic Centre can attend Hajj with an organized group.
- You will find additional instructions on the Hajj visa application form that the Saudi Embassy will send to you. Comply with each instruction for a smooth visa application and eventual admission for Hajj.
Where Can Pilgrims Apply For Hajj Visa?
You can get a Saudi hajj visa application form for free from the Saudi high commission in your home country, provided that your country is eligible for the Saudi tourist visa. However, the application process can be tedious and confusing especially for a first-timer. You would rather hire a licensed travel agency (must be approved by the Saudi Consulate) to handle the application process, arrange for your flight, and book your accommodation. Note that pilgrims flock to Jeddah every year, which makes it hard for you to find accommodation on your own.
Do You Have To Pay For The Hajj Visas?
Yes and no. Yes because pilgrimage visas are free and yes because it is almost certain that you will need the services of a travel agent. You will also have to factor in associated costs such as accommodation, guides, transport, and water.
Insurance Policy for Hajj Pilgrims
Holders of Hajj visas are required to have insurance covers valid through the entire Hajj. Saudi’s Ministry for Hajj and Umrah liaises with the Company for Cooperative Insurance (Tawuniya) to provide pilgrims with insurance covers for Hajj. The policy covers flight cancellations or delays, medical emergencies, accidents, death and repatriation, and disasters.
Notable Hajj Admission Guidelines
- You must arrive at the King Abdulaziz Airport on or before the 4 Dhu Al-Hijjah. No late entries are allowed for Hajj.
- You will not be allowed into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if you are carrying any foreign food products.
- The maximum baggage that a Hajj visa holder can bring to the kingdom is 70lbs or 32kgs, and must not exceed 20×17.7×9.8in or 56x45x25cm in size. If you have a bigger baggage, you will be required to ship it via an authorized Hajj cargo service center.
- The Unified Agents Office is mandated with the responsibility of making your stay in the kingdom comfortable. If you lose your passport, for example, you are expected to report to the agents’ office for assistance.
- Remember to leave immediately after the completion of Hajj lest you land in trouble.