With Umrah season opened for 1441, the first flights of Umrah pilgrims from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have already been welcomed into the country. The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is reportedly ready to issue 10 million visas for this year’s Umrah season, which will be provided electronically – without the need to visit embassies and consulates for a stamp – as introduced in a new online system. Further, despite reports by Arab News that a recent royal decree has cancelled repeat Umrah fees, the South African Travel Hajj & Umrah Operators Association (Sathuoa) says the repeat fee is still applicable until further notice.
“The repeat visas fee has not been cancelled like many people understood it…the repeat fee is still applicable to all that have travelled in the last three years – as indicated in the Hajj and Umrah Forum. You will pay the two thousand Saudi Riyals if you have travelled in the last 3 years for Umrah,” said vice president of Sathuoa, Shaykh Imran Saban.
Saban has added, however, that Sathuoa will follow up on reports of the cancellation of repeat fees through official channels and will accordingly update the public once further clarity has been obtained.
“There have been quite a few changes from day to day from the ministry’s side with regards to the rules and regulations of Umrah. Up until yesterday, we understood that the repeat fee is still standing,” he said.
“We will check today if there have been any new changes but when the season opened up and we signed our contracts with them, they informed us about the new processes. It [the cancellation of the repeat fees] wasn’t up for discussion.”
“We will always keep the public informed of any changes.”
Meanwhile, a new system has been introduced by the Kingdom, allowing individuals to apply for visas while selecting their Umrah packages online.
“There’s a new online system put together whereby individuals can also apply for their visas when they log onto the website of the Ministry of Hajj…The ministry, before, allowed us to do the packages directly with the suppliers ourselves but now the new system is such that when you do apply for the visa on the website of the ministry, you have to create a package on that particular website and pay it on there as well.”
“Once you have entered all the necessary information it [the online system] will accept and generate a code. This code will then be used 15 days before your departure to print your visa on the ministry’s website,” said Shaykh Saban.
Although the online system has been experiencing some trouble in its beginning phases, Shaykh Saban expects the process to be fully operational and glitch-free within a week or two.
“The system is a good system – it will be much easier to obtain the visa and it’s a much safer system having the whole package booked and pre-arranged prior to arrival.”