Saudi Arabia currently has a strict visa policy. Foreign visitors who wish to travel to the country must obtain a visa in advance unless they come from one of the four visa exempt countries. Saudia Arabia at this time does not issue tourist visa. However, this will change once the Saudi Arabia electronic visa becomes available for citizens of eligible countries. Plans to issue an online visa for Saudi Arabia have been discussed in the past, but these were blocked or delayed due to political disagreement.
However, officials have now a more positive outlook on the implementation of an electronic visa system for Saudi Arabia. The Saudi eVisa would be a great change for the country. Traveling to Saudi Arabia has been difficult due to their strict visa policies and requirements. The eVisa would make the process of obtaining a visa to the country much easier and faster. According to Saudi Arabia officials, the Saudi Arabia eVisa application would take a few minutes to complete. Applicants will not be required to go to an embassy or consulate.
Who Will Have to Apply for the Saudi Arabia Electronic Visa?
The only countries that are exempt from applying for a visa to Saudi Arabia are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the UAE. There's not a finalized list of eligible countries, however, the Saudi government has announced the eVisa will be available to citizens of the United States, Schengen member countries, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan among others.
In December, Saudi Arabia launched a visa service for visitors who wanted to attend the Formula E motoring event. This was the first time this form of visa was offered to visitors outside the scope of religious tourism. The portal through which travelers could apply was called Sharek. Through this service, about 1000 tourists from 80 countries arrived in the Saudi Arabia capital to participate in the Formula E event. Though the portal was limited to the Formula E tourists, it was an opportunity to see how the system would work. "We went from a very complicated process to a very simple one," said Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, Vice Chairman of the General Sports Authority.
Saudi Arabia as a Travel Destination
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace and spiritual home of Islam but for many years has been one of the most difficult countries to visit. Set in Western Asia it is the largest state in the Middle East. It is the only country with access to both the Red Sea and a Persian Gulf Coast. Saudi Arabia is home to the Mecca and Medina which represent the most sacred destination for Muslims. There are several attractions the country has to offer, among them Tabuk Castle, the Souq Al Alawi Market, Fakieh Aquarium, Jebel Khuribah fortress, and much more.
Officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is an absolute monarchy. According to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia adopted by a royal decree in 1992, the king must comply with Islamic Law and the Quran. No political parties or national elections are allowed. Critics perceive Saudi Arabia as a totalitarian dictatorship and some of their policies have been highly controversial.
The introduction of the Saudi eVisa will make it easier for many travelers to visit the country. However, entry requirements and eVisa requirements have not been released yet. Foreign visitors must keep in mind that citizens of Qatar and of Israel are refused entry at this time. Women under thirty who wish to visit Saudi Arabia will have to be accompanied, hence, cannot travel to the country alone. Furthermore, non-muslim visitors will not be allowed to travel to the City of Mecca and the City Centre of Medina.
More information about the electronic visa to Saudi Arabia will be released in the coming months.