After it launched the tourist e-visa at the very beginning of this month, now the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning to introduce another type of visa.
The Saudi Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) and the Ministry of Haj and Umrah are currently working on a possible introduction of a new visa, through the portal of the Ministry of Interior. The new visa, which might be called the “host visa” will permit citizens and expatriates of the Kingdom to sponsor three to five people traveling to Saudi Arabia for Umrah.
However, while the Saudi citizens will be eligible to sponsor anyone they want to bring in, expatriates can only do so for their close relatives.
According to the Saudi Gazette, the visa will be valid for 90 days per year and will cost about SR500 (€120). The data of the guests will be recorded in the civil status registry of citizens and Absher portal of expatriates.
The visa holders will be able to stay in hotels, furnished apartments or at the house of their host. In addition, they will be able to travel freely throughout the Kingdom and participate in tourist activities.
Saudi Arabia started granting tourist visas to the citizens of 51 world countries as of September 27, in a bid to develop the tourism sector. So far, Saudi Arabia has issued visas only to resident workers, business travelers, and Muslim pilgrims. The latter are given special visas to travel to holy sites.
Visas designated specifically for tourism purposes were not available until last year. The first tourist visas were allowed in December 2018, for the Formula-E race, which was held in Riyadh.
However, under its Vision 2030 plan, the country has undertaken a series of changes, pushed by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The country aims to increase total tourism spending in the kingdom — by local citizens as well as foreigners — to $46.6 billion in 2020. In 2015, the spending was $27.9 billion.
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