After a variety of successful international events held in Saudi Arabia in recent times, the government of the Kingdom has decided to jump on the eVisa bandwagon and begin offering visa free entry to Saudi Arabia for several of the largest tourist groups, including US citizens.
There have been four major sporting and cultural events in Saudi Arabia that permitted 9,000 tourists from the U.S. and other major traveling nations to be issued one-off eVisas, allowing them access to the previously restricted country. These events included the Formula E Motor Racing competition, the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival, an Italian Super Cup football match in Jeddah and the Winter at Tantora festival in the ancient desert city of Al-Ula.
After the success of this initial trial period, the government has taken steps to start development of a permanent electronic visa system which hopes to be in place by the end of the year.
Who will be eligible for a Saudi Arabia eVisa?
Those citizens who will have the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia visa free include tourists from the U.S., Europe, Japan, and China. Although in the past, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has focused its efforts on easing access for Muslim travelers heading for Mecca, the government has seized the opportunity to now open their borders to western travelers in order to improve the economy and diversify in keeping with the Vision 2030 plan created by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The easing of access to Saudi Arabia for American, European, Japanese, and Chinese tourists will not only allow for a more diverse economy but will also improve the international reputation of the country.
Saudi Arabia prepares for new tourist intake
While the Saudi government invests in new technology to create the electronic visa programs they will need, the country is preparing to welcome tourists from around the globe by investing in new international events, such as concerts, sporting activities, etc. as well as constructing new attractions, like the mega-theme park near Riyadh, that is aiming to draw in crowds of up to 1.5 million visitors a year.
The eVisa system for Saudi Arabia will allow travelers to apply online for their travel authorization before departure and promises to take only a few minutes to complete. Similarly to other eVisa programs around the world, Saudi Arabia aims to use this system to speed up and facilitate the visa application process for all tourists, without the need to attend an interview or take a trip to an embassy or consulate.
Saudi Arabian visas for US citizens will be available online through a simple application form that would require travelers to answer questions, fill out a form with their personal details and travel information, and pay a visa fee online before being issued a visa for Saudi Arabia electronically within 24 hours.
Saudi Arabia has long relied on an economy based solely on profits from oil extraction, however, in order to sustain financial growth in the country, the government, with permission from the Crown Prince, has elaborated this new eVisa plan for US, European, Chinese, and Japanese tourists, which will hopefully benefit the country in many unforeseen ways in addition to purely touristic gains.