Saudi Arabia Now Issues Electronic Tourist Visas 2019

“Saudi Arabia does not offer tourist visas” was this response written and posted by Veejay — who is a reader of The Gate — pertaining to my review of Burj Khalifa in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in which I mentioned that the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah was expected to surpass Burj Khalifa as the tallest building in the world prior to its expected completion in 2018 and grand opening in 2019. “For the vast majority of us, therefore, the tallest building experience option will remain the Burj.”

Saudi Arabia Now Issues Electronic Tourist Visas 2019

The grand opening of Kingdom Tower — which has since been renamed Jeddah Tower — has been postponed to sometime in 2021 due to construction issues…

…but effective as of Friday, September 27, 2019, Saudi Arabia officially started issuing tourist visas to citizens of 49 eligible countries and territories at a cost of 440 Saudi Arabian riyals for all visit visas — which converts to approximately $117.29 in United States dollars — which is not bad when compared to the original expectation that the visa could cost as much as 2,000 Saudi Arabian riyals or slightly greater than $533.00 United States dollars. The new electronic visa, visa on arrival to Saudi Arabia, and consulate visa are all subject to the visa fee, which including the base fee of 300 Saudi Arabian riyals and health insurance fee of 140 Saudi Arabian riyals. Value added tax and the processing of payment are additional charges.

A single entry visa allows you to stay in Saudi Arabia for one month; while the multiple entry visa allows you to stay up to three months.

The portal to obtain an electronic visa to Saudi Arabia is purportedly fast and easy to use for international visitors from those eligible countries who only need to go through three simple steps; and it is a one-year visa with multiple entries which will allow tourists to spend up to a maximum of 90 days in the country — or the visa can be obtained upon arrival in Saudi Arabia via visa kiosks at immigration.

The minimum age for applicants of the new electronic visa for Saudi Arabia is 18 years old. Applicants who are younger than 18 years of age must have a guardian who is older than 18 years of age.

The passports of applicants must be valid for a minimum of six months at the time of entering Saudi Arabia — although an extended validity of six months after the passport expiration date is permissible for application for citizens of the United States.

Citizens from other countries must apply for visas through their nearest Saudi Arabia embassies or consulates.

Other factors which are relevant to the Saudi Arabia visa include:

  • Refund of the visa fee in case of rejection is not possible, as visa fees are non-refundable
  • An overstay fee of 140 Saudi Arabian riyals will be levied for each day of overstay when the visa expires without leaving Saudi Arabia
  • Religion of applicant is not relevant
  • Countries with bilateral agreements can apply for the visit visa through e-visa or visa on arrival, or through the consulate visa — United States, United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan
  • Documents which are not required to obtain a visa include:
    • Return ticket
    • Booking accommodation — only address is required
    • Hard copy of the visa — although a soft copy is advised
  • Time taken to issue an e-Visa is between five minutes and 30 minutes in most cases
  • Visa eligibility pre-checks are conducted by all airlines prior to boarding airplanes for flights to Saudi Arabia

Plans for Saudi Arabia

In addition to Jeddah Tower, other new mega projects are designed to reshape the economy of Saudi Arabia and are intended to supplement the historical and cultural heritage of the country — as well as the natural beauty and rich marine life which has largely been preserved.

According to this article which I wrote on Thursday, November 30, 2017 pertaining to the original plans of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to issue visas to conventional visitors in 2018 in order to increase its tourism industry to 30 million visitors per year by 2030 — as well as increase annual spending by tourists to $47 billion by 2020 — while simultaneously reducing its reliance on the oil industry, as oil prices are currently depressed, some of those other projects include:

  • A new $500 billion “mega-city” metropolis, which is being planned.
  • Hundreds of kilometers of the coastline of Saudi Arabia with the Red Sea — including 50 islands and 34,000 square kilometers, which is an area bigger than the country of Belgium — are planned to be converted into a global tourism destination to attract luxury travelers from around the globe.
  • Six Flags is expected to open its first theme amusement park in Riyadh in 2021, with the potential of constructing two additional theme parks.

Summary

Security issues may dampen the spirits of some people who may otherwise want to visit Saudi Arabia. This Level 2 travel warning — which was issued by the United States Department of State earlier this month for Saudi Arabia — certainly does not help promote tourism:

Exercise increased caution in Saudi Arabia due to terrorism and the threat of missile and drone attacks on civilian targets.

“Would you consider a visit to Saudi Arabia?” asked Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly in this article. Yes, I would consider it. I would consider visiting every country and territory in the world at least once — of course, some more favorably than others — but even with the issuance of tourist visas by Saudi Arabia, the chances of me being permitted to visit Makkah will most likely still be unlikely

…and the visa fee is a little rich, in my opinion. Although the new electronic visa from Saudi Arabia can be viewed as a positive development, other countries have either reduced or eliminated visa fees — such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Belarus. I give reasons as to why other countries should follow their leads in this article.

Ideally, I would really like to see the day where you and I can travel anywhere in the world with few to no impediments; but with human nature being the way it is, I know that will not happen anytime soon — if at all — especially with the recent news that citizens of the United States will need to register to visit parts of Europe starting in the year 2021…

…but at least the world still seems to generally be heading closer towards that goal overall — even if it is only at a glacial pace…

Source: Map data ©2017 Google; ©2017 TerraMetrics.

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