The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched an electronic visa waiver for visitors from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
British and Irish nationals who want to visit the kingdom will be issued a single entry e-visa which allows them to stay in the country for up to six months. It applies to those visiting for business, tourism, study and medical treatment.
“This is great news! Every time my family and I wanted to visit Saudi Arabia in the past it had always been such a hassle for my husband and took months sometimes just to see whether we can get an Umrah visa or a visitor one, but now that you can visit the entire country, while visiting Makkah and Madinah, is the most amazing thing ever,” Saba Aftab, a UK citizen from Manchester told The National.
Procedures have been streamlined as part of measures to ease travel restrictions and attract more tourists.
Visitors can apply for the e-visa by filling out an application form on the Unified National Visa Platform at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
The application can be sent between 90 days and two days before the date of travel to the kingdom. Once the application is sent, the approved visa will be emailed to the recipient within 24 hours.
Last month, the kingdom announced a new instant e-visa option for travellers with UK, US, Schengen visas, as well as permanent residents of those countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The measures are part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 that aims to increase the tourism sector's contribution to the gross domestic product beyond 10 per cent.
Last year, the United Kingdom launched a similar e-visa waiver for Saudi citizens travelling to the country, as well as for citizens of the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
They no longer need to apply for a visa through traditional routes. Instead they can apply for the visa waiver online from three months to 48 hours before they travel.
The British Embassy in the kingdom said there have been more than 250,000 Electronic Visa Waiver applications from Saudis travelling to the UK so far.