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Illustrative image. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Cairo: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry has launched an initiative for issuing e-visas at some missions of the kingdom abroad, the Saudi news agency SPA reported on Thursday.

The initiative replaces the visa strip on passport with an e-visa whose data can be read via the Quick Response (QR) code, it added.

The shift is part of automation procedures and upgrade of consular services provided by the ministry for granting work, residency and visit visas, the agency added.

In its first phase, the procedure has been implemented at the Saudi missions in the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Saudi Arabia is home to a large community of expat workers.

The country is seeking to diversify its oil-reliant economy and attract more foreign visitors.

The number of visitors to Saudi Arabia reached 2.4 million in January and surged to 2.5 million in February, Tourism Minister Ahmad Al Khateeb said in March.

The kingdom aims to receive 25 million foreign tourists this year.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months unveiled a slew of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to perform Umrah.

Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas are allowed to undertake Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa, where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Upon Him) is located in the Prophet’s Mosque.

Saudi authorities have also extended the Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 and allowed holders to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets and leave from any airport.

Saudi citizens can apply for visas inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah.

Saudi Arabia has also issued a stopover transit visa, allowing the holder to perform Umrah, visit the Prophet’s Mosque and attend different events across the kingdom. The four-day transit visa is valid for 90 days.

The kingdom has also said GCC residents are eligible to apply for a tourist visa, regardless of their profession, allowing them to perform Umrah.