Umrah pilgrims
Umrah pilgrims in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Image Credit: SPA FILE

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has begun issuing electronic visas for the new season of Umrah or lesser pilgrimage starting later this month, after the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said applications for obtaining the Umrah visa are presented via the Nusuk platform

The visa holders will start arriving in the kingdom to perform Umrah as of the first of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar.

The Nusuk platform facilitates procedures including accommodation for Muslims from around the world planning to perform Umrah in the Saudi holy city of Mecca and visit Medina, home to Islam’s second holiest site.

Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the annual Hajj rituals physically or financially, flock to Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah.

In recent months, the kingdom has unveiled a host of facilities for overseas Muslims 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 at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina after booking an e-appointment.

Saudi authorities have 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.

The kingdom has also announced that expatriates residing in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are eligible to apply for a tourist visa, regardless of their profession, and be able to perform Umrah.

Likewise, holders of the Schengen, US and UK visas can book appointments to perform Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa via the Nusuk app before arrival in Saudi Arabia.