This blog is an update to one of the first articles I authored regarding the Saudi Arabian Visa process. There has been a vast amount of changes to the Kingdoms visa process and I hope this updated post provides the necessary insight.
The most common email I receive every morning has to do with HOW do I get to Saudi Arabia? Can I just enter like other countries? Do I need a visa? (Yes!) How do I get a visa? And what type of visa do I need? I’d like to revisit some of these questions and clear up the vague terminology used for KSA travel.
Are you thinking about investing in Saudi or just travelling for a bit of time? Confused on what route to go to get your hands on a visa OR has the KSA Embassy been of no help to you? These are common issues and we address them hear daily.
First and foremost, a tourist visa does not exist for Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has discussed the idea of moving towards tourism visas to open the world’s eyes to the Kingdom and all its rich history. But for now, it is not happening.
If you want to skip all unnecessary information about types, just contact one of our offices here or order visa you need online
Saudi Arabia Visa Types
The most common and prevalent visa to visit Saudi Arabia is known as the commercial/business visa. This particular visa allows an individual to travel to Saudi Arabia and conduct business on behalf of his/her company. Generally, the host in Saudi Arabia will be the one meeting with the individual to discuss buying products, joint ventures, and general business. This is one of the easiest and stress-free visas to apply for. All that is needed is for the host to apply for an invitation letter to invite the client to Saudi. This is accomplished when the client scans a copy of his/her passport to the host and the host is able to submit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office. As soon as the Ministry approves the invitation, they will send the host a pdf copy, which will then need to be affixed with their business seal. This process can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on the workload of the Ministry, industry of the host, and what MOFA office they’re working with. As soon as the necessary stamps and approvals have been gleaned, the invitation will be sent to the client. Upon receipt, the first thing you will notice is that the invitation is predominantly in Arabic. Therefore it is the client’s responsibility to get in touch with a registered agent such as Travel Visa Pro whom cannot only translate the invitation letter, but is authorized to work with the Saudi Embassy to handle visa issues.
Please keep in mind that one of the quintessential points of a business visa is that you will ONLY be paid by your US employer and you will not be receiving any direct compensation from the Saudi host. If this is untrue, you will want to make sure the host has applied for a visiting work visit invitation. The same methods and processes will need to be followed to obtain the invitation letter from the Saudi host, but the procedure with the Embassy changes drastically. Instead of submitting a US based business letter, you will need to provide the Saudi Embassy Authorities with your temporary work contract which clearly shows you will be receiving compensation FROM the Saudi host. It is very important to discern the differences between business and visiting work as it can have grave implications when you try to exit KSA and when you re-enter into the USA. If unclear, it is always too good to speak with a specialist whom can advise you on the various intricacies and effectively translate the invitation letter for you.
The third most common and in my opinion, the easiest visa to work with is a government visa. This visa is furnished to men and women whom will be meeting with various Saudi government institutions and their associated personnel. The visa invitation letter is arranged the same way as a business visa, but the Saudi Embassy will require less documentation from the client. Also, these visas are generally approved in 1-2 business days AND the visa is gratis. This means, clients will only be responsible for Enjaz fees, but not the $108 Consular fee associated with business visas. Again, highly recommended to work with a registered agent just to ensure that all formalities are followed and no delays are incurred.
Now we move onto the family visit visa which allows for travel to Saudi Arabia for a personal non-business related purpose. Family visas are able for individuals wishing to see their mom, wife, husband, cousin, grandparents, etc; as long as you are able to establish a relationship to the client. This means you will have to provide birth, marriage, or divorce certificates. Sometimes you will have to provide a multitude of documents to establish the blood line, especially when visiting cousins or grandparents. Also, in addition to an official document you will need to ask the host to either scan you a copy of his/her Iqama card OR Saudi passport. Either one is acceptable by the Embassy. Invitations are gleaned in the same process, but now instead of a company sponsoring the individual; it will be the family member. The Ministry automatically sets all family visits for a single entry, 90 day stay. If you intend to stay longer or need multiple entries, it is imperative to speak with your host prior to applying for the invitation letters.
A residence visa is intended for those wishing to relocate or live in Saudi Arabia. This is a very common visa for family members whom are moving to KSA to be with one who is there on a work visa. This visa only comes from the Ministry of Interior and is linked directly to the Iqama card of one who is employed in Saudi Arabia. The invitation furnished from the MOI is yellow and twice the length as a normal piece of paper. In common terms it is called the yellow form. The invite allows for the listed members to apply for a residence visa. For this visa, a plethora of documents are needed, which will include the Saudi Arabian Medical report. This is a one of a kind document, which will require you to be tested for everything known to man. The last major difference for residence visas is upon entry into KSA, you will immediately be supplied with an Iqama card. The generally practice is to wait 90 days before the card is available, but residence visas allow for them to be issued at the E gate.
One of the most difficult and most complex visas in Saudi Arabia is the work visa. This visa allows for individuals to obtain a work contract with a Saudi company and become part of the work force. The visa implies you will be directly paid by a Saudi firm, obtain residence, health insurance, and other perks. However, getting a contract with a Saudi firm is a bit of a mystery since they only offer direct hiring once a year. So more times than not, the individual will have to meet with a Saudi recruiting firm and upon a successful vetting; their resume will be forwarded to the Saudi company. When the contract has been settled and agreed upon by all parties, the Saudi firm will give the candidate a visa block invitation, which lists the job title, nationality, location of the visa, visa number, and the name of the sponsor. Once you have reached this point I implore you to work with a registered agent who is very adept at procuring Saudi work visas. There are a host of issues which need to be discussed and addressed to ensure smooth stamping. It not only requires working with the Saudi Embassy, but the Saudi Arabian Culutral Mission as well. You will need a medical exam, police report, CV, certificates, and many other pertinent documents.
Transit visas are one of the most uncommon visas issued by Saudi authorities. If you are flying to Saudi with the intention of leaving the airport, but will be in the country less than 72 hours you may apply for a transit visa. However, more times than not your application will be denied, especially during the high points of Umrah, Hajj, and during any of the Eids. Furthermore, if you are a Muslim, your application will be scrutinized to the Nth degree because in their minds they assume you are trying to enter into Mecca or Medina. Furthermore, you must have a confirmed hotel reservation and your trip to your next destination must leave from the same airport of entry.
Investment visas are starting to make their way into the Saudi market. The Kingdom is ripe with vast investments whether it be power, water, oil, hotels, or gas. Therefore, through a special program with SAGIA individuals are able to apply for an investment visa. These visas will require enrolling with SAGIA, making a deposit in a Saudi bank, receiving an investment license, and the charter from the bank. Once all this has been obtained, SAGIA will provide the client with an invitation letter. From this point on the individual will follow the same process as a business visa.
One of the rarest visas to Saudi Arabia is the extension of a re-entry visa. This is solely applicable to those in possession of a valid Iqama card and exiting Saudi Arabia. Upon exiting, the E gate authorities will stamp a white piece of paper issued from the MOI. On this paper it lists the exact time you are allowed to stay outside of the kingdom. It is in your best interest to re-enter within this time frame. However, there are instances when this is not plausible. Therefore, you will have to ask the Embassy to apply for a re-entry visa. Generally, they will require a copy of your Iqama, paper from MOI, and a letter from your employer in Saudi ensuring that you are on good terms. Now it is up to the Saudi Embassy to decide if they would like to allow you back into the country. Again, this is where it becomes imperative to work with a registered agent and one who has a good relationship with the Embassy. This will come in quite handy.
Lastly, Saudi offers two types of religious visas; Hajj and Umrah. The Umrah visa is explained in great detail in another posting, so we will not re-visit it. But religious visas have many stipulations not only when applying for the visa, but once you have entered Saudi.
In closing, there are numerous types of visas to choose from/apply for when travelling to Saudi Arabia, but it is very important to keep in mind what your exact intentions are. It is indeed one of the more serious countries to work with and they keep a keen eye on who is coming/leaving their country. You wouldn’t want to end up with one of their plush $750 per day fines, a ban from the country, or worse. As always, it’s important to consult with someone who has years of experience in the field and point you in the right direction.