All foreigners planning to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are required to obtain a valid passport and entry visa from a nearby Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia or Consulate. All individuals with a residence permit are required to have an exit or an exit and re-entry visa. This is provided by a Passport Department in the Kingdom upon the request of the Saudi employer or sponsor.
Saudi Arabia Immigration
Three types of entry visa can be issued by Saudi Arabia Royal Embassies or Consulates, apart from the Hajj and Umrah visa (Holy Makkah visit). The respective embassies or consulates abroad will grant visas at their discretion often depending on the nature of the visit such as leisure, business, investment, studies, mass media, permanent residency, employment, etc. Other forms of travel and identification documents are also recommended to be brought by all visitors. Certain laws and statutes govern all matters concerning citizenship, tourism and immigration.
An expat shared his experience in Dubai Expat Forum last April 17, 2009:
“Everyone who enters the Kingdom should have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity and the appropriate visa. Unless you are a visitor from a GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council — Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman)country or in transit, all other nationalities require a visa to enter the Kingdom.
Unlike other countries of the GCC, Saudi Arabia does not issue tourist visas nor is it possible for a hotel to sponsor a visitor. Other than the two types of visas which are only available to Muslims, there exist visitor’s visas, residence visas or transit visas.
In all cases, a person entering the Kingdom must have a Saudi sponsor, which means an individual or a company to vouch for the individual’s conduct while in the country. Visas can be obtained from the visa department in the Saudi Embassy of the visitor’s home country or from Saudi Consulates available in all main cities around the world.
The cost of a visa is generally 200 Saudi Riyals. However, visitors should check with the Saudi Embassy or Consulate.
WARNING: All government business in Saudi Arabia is conducted according to the Islamic calendar. Any Gregorian (western) date you encounter on official documents is there purely for your convenience and is in no way to be construed as official. The official date will be the Islamic one and as the Islamic year is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian one, confusion can — and often does — result. For example, a one month visa is valid for an Islamic month, not a Gregorian one. If the visitor stays for a Gregorian month, there is a distinct possibility he will have overstayed his visa by a day or two and he will almost surely encounter difficulties with the authorities when he attempts to leave the Kingdom.”
A visitor’s visa, which is in actual fact a business visa, is obtained upon a formal invitation from the company or individual sponsoring the visitor. The invitation will include a visa number and it is primarily a statement that the sponsor has obtained a visa for the visitor and that authority to issue the visa has been sent to the appropriate Saudi embassy.
With the visa number in hand, the individual can go to the embassy BUT as visas are issued only by number and not by name, if one has no number, there is absolutely no point in going to the embassy. No number, no visa: the rule is simple and is applied to all applicants. If, on the other hand, the visitor is at the embassy in the morning with his number, he can usually collect his visa in the afternoon.
The visa extensions can only be obtained by your sponsor.
If a woman is arriving in the Kingdom alone, the sponsor or her husband must receive her at the airport.
Every woman must have confirmed accommodation for the duration of her stay in the Kingdom.
A woman is not allowed to drive a car and can therefore travel by car only if she is accompanied by her husband, a male relative, or a driver.
All visitors to the Kingdom must have a return ticket.
Pilgrims must also have all valid documentation and a passport that is valid for 6 months”
A Family Visit or Resident Visa:
Family members of an individual working in Saudi Arabia can obtain a family visit visa to travel to the Kingdom. The employed spouse must submit a request of invitation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia, who will then send the authorization directly to the Saudi Embassy or one of its Consulates.
An original visa application with all sections completed.
A passport, valid for at least six months and containing at least four blank pages.
One passport-sized photograph.
A letter from a Saudi company on company letterhead sponsoring the applicant.
If the applicant is a wife visiting her husband, she must supply a copy of their marriage certificate. If the applicant is a child visiting a parent, a copy of their birth certificate is required.
A money order for $54.00 for each person.
Include the number and date of the visa of the family member working in Saudi Arabia.
The special guidelines to be observed in Hajj and Umrah visas have been outlined by the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia currently welcomes foreign investments and skilled professionals to further strengthen its technologies and expertise in various fields. The Saudi Arabia Council of Ministers issued a new Foreign Investment Law providing benefits and easier access for foreign investors. The General Investment Commission was also established to implement the rules and issue investment licenses and permits to foreign nationals working or investing in the country.
The 2003 Terror Immigration Elimination Act also helps improve the security of all people visiting or residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Act limits the issuance of diversity immigrant and student visas to aliens who are Saudi Arabia nationals and countries that encourage terrorism acts or do not fully cooperate with the anti-terrorism efforts of the United States. Other laws also protect laborers and workers by providing sufficient residence visas and permits to maintain livelihood.
Visa Immigration Services
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requires visas from all foreign nationals entering the country or its territories with the exception of:
• nationals of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates;
• passengers in transit proceeding on their journey by the first or same connecting aircraft within eighteen (18) hours provided they are holders of valid onward or return documents and do not leave the airport premises and do not make any further landings in Saudi Arabia, but exceptions are made for nationals of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria since these foreigners are always required a transit visa; and
• holders of “Landing Permits” and re-entry permits issued by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The following individuals are restricted entry in Saudi Arabia:
• holders of Israeli passport or passports having Israeli stamps in them;
• passengers who do not comply with Saudi conventions of behavior and dress or seemingly intoxicated individuals; and
• special regulations are provided for pilgrims entering Saudi Arabia.
Visitors need a passport with a validity period no more than six (6) months since the date of visa issuance, plus a visa to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Visas are needed and issued for purposes such as:
• visiting family or close relatives or attending a funeral;
• business, investment and employment;
• religious visits; and
Tourism visas are only issued for approved tour groups that follow organized itineraries. Seaport and airport visas are not available. All visas should also have a sponsor which can take several months to process and must be acquired before arriving in the country. Travelers who are holders of passports showing the holder’s plans of going to Israel or original Israel citizenship used to be denied entry to Saudi Arabia. Sponsors have to meet female visitors and residents upon arriving in Saudi Arabia. Several women previously experienced delays primarily because they were traveling alone and did not have any sponsors to meet.
Women with plans of permanently residing in Saudi Arabia should be informed that all children and females living in the country as members of a Saudi household such as adult women married to Saudi nationals, unmarried adult women who are daughters of Saudi fathers, and males below 21 years old with Saudi-born parents are considered household property and will need the permission of the Saudi household male head before leaving the country.
Married women need to be allowed by their Saudi husbands to depart the country, while male Saudi fathers or guardians grant permission to unmarried women, children and young boys to depart the Kingdom. Saudi mothers cannot independently grant permission to minor children without their husbands consent.
Visitor visas or entering Saudi Arabia does not require an exit permit but may be prohibited from leaving the country if they are currently involved in legal disputes. An exit permit may not be granted prior to court resolution or case abandonment if visitors are involved in labor dispute or employment dismissal; some Saudi sponsors can have an impact in negotiations, thereby possibly preventing departure or future employment in Saudi Arabia.
Meningitis vaccination certificates are required from visitors before arriving in Saudi Arabia. For work and residence permits, a medical report or physical examination is needed. Saudi Arabia residents who wish to leave the country are required to obtain an exit permit before leaving and an exit and re-entry permit if they plan to return to the country. Exit permits require the Saudi sponsor’s approval. Passports of US citizens’ presented to depart may be refused recognition by the Saudi government if it was not used to enter the country.
Hajj and Umrah Visa
A Hajj visa issued to Muslims who wish to take part in the hajj during the first half of the twelfth Islamic month. The visas are issued based on a quota system, particularly 1 for every 1000 Muslims in a given country population. An Umrah visa is issued to Muslims who wish to enter and pray in the Holy Cities of Madinah and Mekkah. It is issued anytime aside from the actual hajj. Umrah visas require applications to be made in the applicants’ home country or country of permanent residence.
Applicants who do not have a Muslim name or do not come from a Muslim country will be required an official document proving Islam religion. Converts are required documents supporting conversion from a mosque. An Umrah visa has a validity period of one (1) week for travel to Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah as well as the roads connecting them. Traveling from the land border is allowed if the entire trip is taken by road.
This is also considered a business visa requiring a formal invitation from the individual or company sponsoring the visitor. The invitation contains a visa number and also serves as a statement that the visitor has obtained a visa via the sponsor. The issuance authority should have also been sent to the Saudi embassy. The rule is “No Number, No Visa” so all visitors can only claim visas upon presentation of the visa number.
This is issued to individuals who wish to live and work in Saudi Arabia. Copies of existing employment contract and academic or professional credential documents need to be presented. Applicants are also required a comprehensive medical examination with forms available at the Saudi embassy. Visitors need to be HIV negative. Paperwork usually takes six (6) weeks, which in effect will lead to a visa number for claiming.
Airport Transit Visa
This is issued to individuals passing through Saudi airports, available in twenty-four (24) and forty-eight (48) hours. The visa is only issued after the applicant has shown sufficient proof of no other ideal routes except to stop by the Kingdom. Individuals who do not acquire an Airport Transit visa are required to surrender their passports to immigration officers at the airport to be collected during departure.
Road Transit Visa
This is issued to individuals driving from Jordan to either Kuwait or Yemen with a validity period of three (3) days. Only the embassies of Sana’a and Amman usually issue Road Transit visas. Visitors are required to report to the embassy with their visa and carnet for the country at the opposite end of the journey. Seven (7)-day transit visas are usually given to visitors driving between Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and UAE. Those driving from Jordan to Oman need to get their visas in Abu Dhabi.
Visa extensions can be obtained by visitors’ sponsors.
Types of Permits
This is issued to foreign nationals who intend to work, start a business or invest in Saudi Arabia-based companies or organizations. Sufficient evidence should be provided showing relations and contracts between the individual or foreign company and the Saudi organization. This is granted together with the residence permit or visitor visa.
This is issued to aliens who intend to live and work permanently in Saudi Arabia. Applicants are still required to obtain exit and re-entry visas if they intend to leave the country. Validity period will depend on the conditions of the applicant and the concerns of the Saudi government. Spouses and children of individuals working in Saudi Arabia should also obtain residence permits to live in the country.