Saudi Arabia has discussed the implementation of online visas for several years but plans to issue an electronic visa were delayed due political disagreements. Now, officials have an optimistic outlook and are expressing that a Saudi e-Visa could be available soon.
According to unconfirmed reports, Saudi Arabia could start issuing e-Visas from September 27. This is also the date of an upcoming event where Saudi’s tourist attractions will be showcased to the world.
The introduction of the e-Visas is part of a wider government plan to open the country up to tourism. The “Vision 2030” plan aims to attract millions of visitors per year to Saudi Arabia in attempt to boost and diversify the country’s economy which is currently heavily oil-dependent.
The introduction of an electronic visa would be a dramatic change for Saudi Arabia as it has been one of the most difficult countries to travel to due to their strict visa regulations. The kingdom does not have a visa designed for tourism purposes. An electronic visa would simplify the process of obtaining a visa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to Saudi Arabia officials, the Saudi e-Visa application form would take a few minutes to complete. Applicants will be able to access the online application from the comfort of their home or office and will not be required to go to an embassy or consulate. Once an application has been reviewed and approved, the visa will be sent to the email address that was provided on the e-Visa application form.
Tourist visa for Saudi Arabia
The Saudi e-Visa would be the country’s first visa designed for tourism purposes. It has been reported that the visa will be valid for 90-day periods and available to around 50 nationalities. More details are expected to be announced over the coming days and weeks.
Last year, for a limited time only, the Saudi Government made an online tourist visa available for foreigners attending special events. The temporary scheme was seen by industry experts as a trial run for the upcoming tourist e-Visa.
Who needs a visa for Saudi Arabia
At this time there are only four countries that are exempt from obtaining a visa to Saudi Arabia. The visa exempt countries are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.
The list of eligible countries for the e-Visa for Saudi Arabia has not been finalized. However, the Saudi government has announced that the eVisa would be available to citizens from the U.S., Schengen member countries, Australia, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.
In December, Saudi Arabia launched a visa services for visitors outside the scope of religious trips through an Internet portal called Sharek. This service was made available for the Formula E motoring event. Thanks to it, 1000 tourists arrived in the Saudi capital. Visitors came from the United States, Russia, Central and South America, Africa and Asia to watch Formula E. This was an important event for the kingdom marking the beginning of a shift in visa policy.
Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, Vice Chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), said of the Sharek portal, “This process was limited to the Formula E. Usually if you apply for a visa it will take some time to get it and you will have to do it through the embassy. We did it [the e-visa] hand in hand with the ministry of foreign affairs. We went from a very complicated process to a very simple one.”
Saudi Arabia decided on testing the electronic visa process for this particular event, “because it is a global event with big reach around the world and it has international parties involved in it.” Visitors provided positive feedback about their visa processing experience.
Once the eVisa for Saudi Arabia becomes available it will be much easier to travel to the country as a tourist. The electronic visa will simplify the process of obtaining a visa in a large way. Saudi Arabia could benefit greatly by opening up the kingdom this way.