Saudi policemen manning a checkpoint in the King Fahad main street in the capital Riyadh. Illustrative image. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has stepped up security checks at entrances to the holy city of Mecca for official permits allowing holders to perform Umrah or lesser pilgrimage in the Grand Mosque during the Ramadan.

An online video shows security personnel regulating traffic at entrances to the holy city and verifying Umrah permits.

Ramadan usually marks the peak season of Umrah in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had earlier said that Umrah permits are available via the Nusuk app.

The ministry added that only one Umrah is permitted during Ramadan to allow the largest numbers of Muslims to undertake the rites.

The nusuk.sa platform enables Muslims wishing to undertake Umrah or visit the holy sites to obtain the necessary visas and permits as well as to book related packages electronically.

Saudi Arabia expects the number of Umrah pilgrims since the onset of the season last July will reach 9 million by the end of Ramadan. Overseas applicants for the Umrah permits in Ramadan must have valid visas at the time of registration.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months unveiled a slew of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to undertake 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 Mohammed (peace be upon him) is located in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

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.

In yet another facilitating step, Saudi Arabia has said its 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 expatriates residing in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are eligible to apply for a tourist visa, regardless of their profession, allowing them to perform Umrah.

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