Saudi Arabia has announced plans to issue Umrah visas electronically to pilgrims, officials from the Saudi ministry of Haj and Umrah have confirmed.
The ministry has established a special platform to issue to the e-visas for Umrah pilgrims, local media reported.
“People coming for Umrah will not have to go to Saudi embassies or consulates as they can have their visas issued electronically in less than 24 hours,” Abdulaziz Wazzan, the ministry’s undersecretary for the affairs of the Umrah, was quoted as saying in Okaz Arabic daily.
The ministry said it is seeking to issue 10 million visas for this year’s Umrah season.
“The central reservation platform is a reservation engine that serves as a link connecting all Umrah service providers, including housing, Umrah, reception, transport, experience enrichment, and cultural trips associated with online booking platforms like Agoda, Booking, Musafir and others,” Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the ministry, told Arab News.
“This way, the ministry ensures that all services are available to pilgrims inside and outside the kingdom through the internet and reliable websites, which pilgrims are accustomed to using when making their bookings. The ministry will ensure that all offers adhere to the set standards and regulatory requirements.”
Pilgrims will be provided with a reference number when they buy a package from an online platform, which will allow them to obtain an e-visa, he explained.
Looking ahead, Al-Maddah said that the ministry is seeking to issue Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030.
“The target number of pilgrims in 1442 AH (2021) will be 15 million. The ministry is well-prepared for these cumulative numbers, and pilgrims now have several e-booking platforms that continue to increase and are no longer limited to external agents,” he added.