Saudi Arabia issues visa guidelines for pilgrims


ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has issued a circular stating that pilgrims in countries with biometric enrollment centers for Hajj and Umrah, such as Pakistan, are required to complete the mandatory biometric registration in their country of origin after obtaining a visa for performing religious duties.

Registering biometric information before arriving at the entry ports of the Kingdom is recommended to save waiting time at the airports and to facilitate a smooth entrance to KSA, the statement read.

In 2019 alone, the Saudi government refused entry to hundreds of visitors for not following the visa procedures and sent them back from the airport. To avoid such incidents, the government said, pilgrims must apply the right category of visa through the travel agents registered with the country’s respective Hajj and Umrah committees.

It is important to note that the newly introduced tourist e-visa cannot be used to perform Hajj or Umrah. It only allows tourists to attend concerts and sporting events happening in the Kingdom.

Without the right visa and documentations, pilgrims will encounter fines and/or deportation to the home country.

Talking about the benefits to perform biometrics before traveling for Hajj or Umrah, the official said that it is mandatory to provide biometric information to enter the Kingdom. He cautioned that the pilgrims might face deportation threats if proper visa procedures are not followed.

Once entire visa formality including enrollment of biometric information is completed, pilgrims will be allowed to travel without any restriction.

The official noted it takes only 10 minutes to register biometrics at the local visa service center, whereas the time spent at the airport upon arrival may be longer depending on the long queues at the airports.

Once the biometric collection is completed in the country of origin, pilgrims will only be required to clear customs and have their passports stamped at the immigration upon entering Saudi Arabia.

Biometrics, in the country of origin, are only collected by the visa service center authorized by the Saudi Foreign Ministry, using a secure and quick process that captures a facial image with a digital camera and a 10-digit fingerprint scan with a digital finger scanner.

Biometric enrollment can be completed locally before traveling or upon arrival at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah or at the Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Medina.