Saudi passport control iran pilgrims
Saudi passport personnel handle procedures for pilgrims at the Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz airport. Image Credit: SPA file

Cairo: Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authorities have started implementing a decision cancelling visa stickers for arrivals from 12 countries according to a gradual timetable.

A circular has been issued by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to all airlines related to approval of scrapping the stickers for labour, visit and residency visas issued by Saudi diplomatic missions in some countries.

The updated list includes Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Uganda, Lebanon, Nepal, Turkiye, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Morocco, Thailand and Vietnam.

The sticker has been replaced with a printed e-visa featuring the traveller’s data, and its validity is verified via the Quick Response (QR) code.

The timetable highlights the schedule for implementing the replacement decision for the 12 countries. It sets the implementation dates as follows: Pakistan starting from July 24; Yemen July 26; Sudan August 2; Uganda August 7; Lebanon August 9; Nepal August 14; Turkiye Aug 16; Sri Lanka Aug 21; Kenya Aug 23; Morocco Aug 28; Thailand Aug 30; and Vietnam Sept 4.

GACA noted that the visa stickers issued before those dates are valid.

In May, the Saudi Foreign Ministry launched an initiative for issuing e-visas at some missions of the kingdom abroad.

The initiative replaces the visa sticker on the beneficiary’s passport with an e-visa and its data can be read via the QR code.

The shift is part of automation procedures and upgrade of consular services provided by the ministry for granting work, residency and visit visas, the Saudi news agency SPA said at the time.

In its first stage, the procedure was 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 migrant 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 Ahmed Al Khateeb said in March.

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