Dubai: With Saudi Arabia announcing the start of the Umrah season from July 11, you may be wondering which visa you can apply for in order to perform Umrah.
According to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, citizens and residents of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are now able to apply for an Umrah permit via the ‘Nusuk’ or ‘Tawakkalna’ applications.
For those outside the GCC area, the Umrah permits will start being issued from the start of the new Islamic year.
The Nusuk platform and mobile application can be used to obtain the necessary permits to perform Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa in the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, while the Tawakkalna app ensures that the applicant meets the necessary health requirements.
What is the Nusuk platform?
The ‘Nusuk’ app, which is available for Apple and Android devices, is the ‘official guide to Mecca and Medina’, providing pilgrims with information on immigration requirements, Umrah group packages, rituals that need to be followed during Umrah and details on various sites within Mecca and Medina that people can visit.
Booking the Umrah permit on the Nusuk app
Once your eVisa or Umrah visa has been issued, you are required to book an Umrah permit from the available dates in the Nusuk app. Similarly, when you are in Medina at the Prophet’s [PBUH] mosque, you would need a permit to pray in the Al Rawda Al Sharifa, the area in the mosque where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed [PBUH] is located.
On the app, you must register as an international visitor and enter your visa number. Next, you will have to book the date and time for Umrah. Once that’s done, you will receive a Quick Response (QR) code of the permit, reservation number and time slot.
Five Saudi visas that allow you to perform Umrah
1. Transit Visa
Booked a ticket through one of the Saudi Arabian airlines - Saudia or flynas? Then, you get a free transit visa, which allows you to stay in the country for up to four days and also perform Umrah.
The visa has a validity of three months. This means that you can apply for the visa up to 90 days before you travel.
According to Saudia, a free night’s stay will be offered along with your ticket. You will then be asked for details of where you wish to stop over – Saudi Arabia has six international airports, and depending on your itinerary, you will be given the options available – and for how many days you wish to stay, with a maximum permitted stay of four days.
2. Family Visit Visa
According to recent online post by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah (MOHU), pilgrims with a family visit visa can perfrom Umrah but they must book an appointment for Umrah through Nusuk or the Tawakkalna app.
Visitors can only obtain this visa if they have relative living in Saudi Arabia. A resident or Saudi citizen must apply for the family visit visa through Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) online - visa.mofa.gov.sa
3. Personal visit visa
Saudi citizens can invite their friends to the country on personal visit visa and holders of this visa can also perform Umrah.
Citizens can either apply for a single or multiple entry visa. Single entry visa allows the person to stay in Saudi Arabia for 90 days. The multiple entry visa is valid for one year and allows the visitor to stay in the country for 90 days.
4. eVisa for expatriates in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries
If you are an expatriate living in the UAE or in any of the GCC countries, you can apply for a Saudi eVisa regardless of your profession. You can apply for a multiple or single entry visa.
You can perform Umrah at any time of the year on this visa, except during the Hajj season.
Additionally, all first-degree relatives of the GCC resident and domestic workers who visit along with their sponsors can obtain an eVisa. However, the expat’s dependents must have a valid residency visa from a GCC country, according to the website of the Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
Your residency document must be valid for at least three months, and your passport should have a validity of at least six months.
To apply for the visa, you must visit MOFA's online visa platform - visa.mofa.gov.sa.
The e-visa for GCC residents costs SR300 (Dh293.25) along with the cost for the health insurance fee. So, the total cost will vary depending on the health insurance coverage you select.
3. ‘Instant eVisa’ for UK, US, or Schengen visa holders
If you are a holder of a UK, US or Schengen tourist visa, or a permanent resident in a European Union (EU) country, you are eligible for an instant eVisa for Saudi Arabia.
Holders of valid tourism or business visas from the UK, US or Schengen area have been granted an exception, provided that the visa was used at least once to enter the issuing country.
You also have the option to perform Umrah throughout the year when you visit Saudi Arabia on this visa, except during the Hajj season.
4. Visa on Arrival in Saudi Arabia
As per Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism, US, UK, and Schengen visa holders and their first-degree relatives are also eligible for visa on arrival.
If you do not have visit visa or a residency permit from the European Union, Schengen area, US or UK, then there are over 40 countries eligible for visa on arrival in Saudi Arabia. Click here to find your country.
According to Visit Saudi, once you arrive at your destination’s airport or entry point in Saudi Arabia, use the self-service kiosk or go directly to the passport control office to apply for your visa on arrival.
If you can get visa on arrival, you will be able to perform Umrah throughout the year, except during the Hajj season.
5. Saudi Investor eVisa
Foreign investors vising Saudi Arabia can apply for a ‘visiting investor’ eVisa, which allows holders to stay in the country for up to 90 days without a sponsor. You can apply for the investor eVisa through MOFA’s official platform for visas - visa.mofa.gov.sa.
Eligible foreign investors can apply for a single or multiple entry eVisa, and also perform Umrah.
According to Saudi Arabia’s MOFA, the initial phase of the ‘visiting investor’ eVisa is accessible to investors hailing from select countries. You will find out if you can apply for the sponsor-free business visa, when you are selecting your nationality in the online application form.
The cost of the eVisa differs according to the duration and validity of the visa, and the type of medical insurance coverage.
Not eligible for any of these? Here are your three options
If you cannot apply for any of these visas or you are not flying through Saudi-based airline, here are your options as per the Nusuk platform:
1. Visa through Umrah package providers
You can obtain an Umrah visa by booking a package online through one of the service providers approved by Nusuk or visit a local travel agency that is registered to book Umrah packages.
You can find all the approved Umrah package providers by visiting this website: https://www.nusuk.sa/partners . Once you click on any of the packages, you will find the details and the contact details of the company or agency.
2. Authorised visa offices – ‘Tasheer’
If your nationality is not eligible for an eVisa or visa-on-arrival, and you want to stay longer than four days in Saudi Arabia, then you can apply for a visa through the official Tasheer Umrah Platform - umrah.tasheer.com
According to the platform, it is an “electronic portal linked to the Saudi central reservation engine owned by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, which enables individual Umrah pilgrims who are outside of Saudi Arabia to review and choose accommodation, transportation, insurance as well as any other services.”
Here are the steps for booking an Umrah package through Tasheer:
1. Fill in your itinerary on the website homepage – for example the destination, arrival date, duration in Makkah, how many guests are travelling with you, select the country of residence or your nationality.
2. Click the ‘Search’ button.
3. Next, based on the information provided, you will be recommended Umrah package providers.
4. Pay for the package online.
5. Next, you will be directed to fill out the visa form. Later on, the visa will be issued by MOFA.
3. Applying through a Saudi Embassy or Consulate
3. Applying through a Saudi Embassy or Consulate
You also have the option to apply for an Umrah visa through a Saudi Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
According to Nusuk, you will either be issued a multiple or single entry depending on the decision of MOFA. The multiple entry visa is valid for a year from its issue date and allows for stays up to 90 days
The cost of a visa through a Saudi embassy or consulate, is SR300 (Dh293), the application fee is SR34 (Dh33), and including a medical insurance fee. This is not included, as the price is determined based on the insurance provider.