Indian Hajj pilgrim visa overhaul announced by Saudi Arabia

Minister announces 48-hour processing and 96-hour stopover for Umrah

Hajj pilgrims prepare to leave Srinagar in Indian Kashmir for Makkah in Saudi Arabia in June. EPA
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Indians can now visit Saudi Arabia and perform Umrah on stopover, business and tourism visas as the Arab nation has announced a range of measures for citizens of the South Asian nation.

Tawfiq Al Rabiah, the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, is visiting New Delhi and aiming to streamline the pilgrimage.

On Tuesday he announced that Indians will get 48-hour processing and a 96-hour stopover visa which will allow them to perform Umrah and visit any city in the kingdom.

“The Umrah visa is valid for 90 days and allows the holders to reside and visit any Saudi city,” Mr Al Rabiah said.

India has a Muslim population of 200 million out of 1.3 billion inhabitants.

There has been a significant increase in the number of Umrah pilgrims from India, Mr Al Rabiah said.

More than 1.2 million people from India performed Umrah this year, a 74 per cent increase on last year, he said.

The two nations plan to improve the number of direct flights to accommodate the increasing number of Indian pilgrims, Mr Al Rabiah added.

More than 175,000 places were allotted for Muslims from the country to perform Hajj this year.

About 47 per cent of the pilgrims were women, including 4,000 women who performed Hajj without a male companion. Saudi Arabia has allowed women over 45 to perform the pilgrimage without a male guardian.

India is hoping to increase the existing quota to at least 200,000.

Saudi Arabia is aiming to streamline procedures, enhance services and outline comprehensive plans for hosting pilgrims and Umrah performers under the Saudi Vision 2030, the Saudi Embassy in New Delhi said.

Updated: December 06, 2023, 5:47 AM