As part of the innovation plan that is being implemented by the Kingdom regarding visas for Saudi Arabia, a new comprehensive insurance policy has been made available to Muslims traveling to Saudi Arabia for an Umrah pilgrimage.
This is great news for religious visitors who can now rely on, among others, health coverage for the entirety of their time in the Kingdom. Receiving medical assistance will be as easy as taking their passport with them to the nearest hospital.
Obtaining insurance coverage is a requirement for many types of Saudi Arabian visas.
The New Insurance Policy for Pilgrims
On the 11th of December 2019, the Company for Cooperative Insurance (Tawuniya) sat down with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to discuss insurance options for religious visitors from abroad.
An agreement was reached and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah was pleased to announce that Tawuniya had signed up to insure pilgrims for 4 years. Insurance coverage starts the moment the pilgrim enters Saudi Arabia.
Pilgrims won’t have to sort the papers out themselves: the insurance is directly linked to their Umrah visa. Being the Umrah a specific type of Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia that can be carried out throughout the year outside the time of the famous Hajj, the Umrah visa is specifically designed for religious tourists. Regular foreign tourists cannot access it.
For these reasons, the Umrah visa in itself presents stricter requirements than other visas for foreign citizens — such as submitting official documents confirming that the visitor is a Muslim or the fact that the visa allows for a stay of only 2 weeks. Lifting the need to purchase an insurance policy independently is a relief for many. The coverage allows foreigners to visit government and private hospitals alike and simply present their passport as proof of insurance, and it also provides support in case of:
- Flight delays or cancellations
- Death and repatriation
In fact, General Supervisor of the Media Center at the Ministry for Hajj and Umrah Ayman Arfaj said that as many as 8,452 travelers have already taken advantage of the policy since the 1st of January 2020.
How Many Pilgrims Travel to Saudi Arabia Each Year?
The numbers are only expected to grow. Religious tourism plays a vital part in the economy of the $25 billion-worthy sector with 3 million people traveling to the Kingdom for Hajj and over 2 million believers performing the Umrah each year.
Although the Government is keen on encouraging leisure tourism (it’s now possible for foreigners to apply for a Saudi visa online in minutes), it’s also designing new strategies and measures to make pilgrimages smoother and safer for all. This includes, for example, using new technologies to make Mecca a smart city and building a new city near Medina to accommodate foreigners.
Do You Need Insurance for Traveling to Saudi Arabia with Other Visas?
Each visa is different and you will need to research which one applies best to your specific circumstances. However, it’s true that a good number of visas for Saudi Arabia require foreigners to have health or other forms of insurance coverage for the entirety of their trip.
For example, the new eVisa for tourists comes with a Mandatory Insurance Policy attached, which is included in the visa application fee and linked directly to the travel permit. Just like the Umrah visa, the electronic visa doesn’t require the applicant to take steps in order to secure coverage.