Saudi Arabia rolls out electronic visas for US, UK and EU visitors

Move to expand e-visa scheme is in line with the Kingdom's ambitious tourism goals

A foreign tourist visits the Abu Lawha, the largest Nabataean tomb at the desert archaeological site of Madain Saleh, northwest of Riyadh. AP
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Saudi Arabia has expanded its electronic visa scheme to visitors from the US, UK and EU countries to further encourage tourism.

The Kingdom said applications for the e-visa, available to all travellers with valid visas from eligible nations, could be applied for through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

It can be used by pilgrims planning to travel to the country to perform Umrah throughout the year. It is not available during the busy Hajj season.

The permit can also be used for tourism purposes, attending events, exhibitions and conferences.

“The Kingdom allows holders of visas of the United States, the European Union (Schengen) and the United Kingdom, and their residents, to issue a tourist visa electronically and immediately through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website,” the Saudi Tourism Authority said.

“Visitors can obtain the e-visa also for performing Umrah throughout the year, except for Al Hajj season.”

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Those applying for the e-visa must possess a valid passport, proof of residence or a valid Schengen, UK, or US visa.

The visa scheme will support The Kingdom's aims to cement its status as a leading touring attraction in the years ahead.

Saudi Arabia plans to add 315,000 new hotel rooms with an estimated development cost of $37.8 billion by 2030, as it continues to expand its hospitality, tourism and travel industries to diversify its economy away from oil.

The planned additions would take the total to about 450,000 hotel rooms, with projects such as the futuristic city of Neom leading the way.

The country recorded 93.5 million visits in 2022, the tourism authority said.

“This achievement is a result of the tremendous efforts of destinations across Saudi in providing visitors with exciting experiences and a seamless travel journey,” said the authority.

“Through digitisation, Saudi is increasing accessibility and connectivity, providing simplified entry routes to visitors, focused on enabling all travellers to enjoy our natural and cultural diversity.”

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a switch to electronic visas in May.

Starting with seven countries, e-visas will replace visa stickers on passports and make it possible to retrieve visitors' data using a QR Code.

Saudi missions in the UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Philippines were able to be issued electronic visas under the scheme.

Saudi Arabia first issued e-visas in late 2019 to accommodate growing tourism.

Updated: June 13, 2023, 3:47 PM