Saudi Arabia to Offer Four-Day Visas for Saudia Airlines Travelers
Visitors will be able to apply in less than three minutes, allowing them to visit the Kingdom for 96 hours
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will soon allow foreign visitors to acquire a four-day visa to enter the country should they buy a ticket with Saudia Airlines.
A new program called ‘Your Ticket is a Visa’ is being launched by the airline in conjunction with the Saudi government to attract more foreign tourists, with a particular emphasis on Muslims hoping to make the holy pilgrimages of Hajj or Umrah.
The new program will simplify the process of obtaining a visa to enter Saudi Arabia, with prospective visitors filling out a form that takes up to three minutes, all of which can be done online while booking a flight.
Saudi officials have also confirmed that visitors can apply for visas via the same system on some UAE-based carriers, with Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Fly Dubai offering 48- to 96-hour visas along with airfare tickets.
“The new program will allow the visitor to link his visa to the stage of issuing the ticket,” said Abdullah Al-Shahrani, a spokesperson for Saudia Airlines, to Saudi news agency Akhbaar 24.
“When the traveler is interested in purchasing a ticket, he will be linked to a direct question about his need for the visa. If the passenger answers yes, he will complete the procedure that does not exceed three minutes from the same site without the need to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to obtain a visa, as is the case with some countries.”
Once confirmed, the four-day or 96-hour visa will allow visitors to travel around the Kingdom as they please. While most visitors are expected to be Muslim pilgrims, the Saudi government is currently running a campaign called ‘Saudi Vision 2030’, which aims to help transition the country’s economy away from oil dependency and towards tourism by attracting visitors of all creeds.
As part of this ambitious plan, the government is planning to build a six-runway mega-airport in the capital Riyadh, eventually replacing the existing King Khalid International Airport (RUH).
2023 will also be the first year since 2019 that the holy pilgrimage of Hajj will face no COVID-19 restrictions, and this summer’s event is expected to reach total capacity. For the last three years, there has been a cap on the total number of pilgrims that can attend, while those over the age of 65 were banned entirely. However, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, the Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Saudi Arabia, said this year’s Hajj will “return to how it was before the pandemic, without any age restrictions.”
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